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Full text of "Elementary sketches of moral philosophy, delivered at the Royal institution, in the years 1804, 1805, and 1806"

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1804, 1805, and 1806. 






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These Lectures were privately printed, in the hope 
that Mr. Sydney Smith's remaining friends would feel 
some interest in the occupations of his early years. By 
these partial judges they have been very generally ap- 
proved. Several eminent men have counseled their 
publication ; but their fragmental and elementary state 
seemed to forbid it. 

The following letter from Lord Jeffrey (written but 
three days before his sudden illness, which terminated 
fatally) appears to be so decisive of their publication, 
that, under the shadow of such authority, and with the 
deepest feelings of gratitude to him for the candor and 
the affectionate approval shown toward their author, 
they are no longer withheld from the public. 

" Edinburgh, January 18th, 1850. 
" My ever dear Mrs. Smith, 

" I can not tell you how grateful I am to you for 
having sent me this book ; not merely (or chiefly) as a 
proof of your regard, or as a memorial of its loved and 
lamented author*, but for the great and unexpected 
pleasure I have already derived, and feel sure I shall 
continue to derive, from its perusal. Though it came 
to me in the middle of my judicial avocations, and when 


my infirm health scarcely admitted of any avoidable 
application, I have been tempted, in the course of the 
last two days, to read more than the half of it ! and find 
it so much more original, interesting, and instructive 
than I had anticipated, that I can not rest till I have not 
merely expressed my thanks to you for the gratification 
I have received, but made some amends for the rash 
and I fear somewhat ungracious judgment I passed 
upon it, after perusing a few passages of the manuscript, 
some years ago. I have not recognized any of these 
passages in any part of the print I am now reading, and 
think I must have been unfortunate in the selection, or 
chance, by which I was then directed to them. But, 
however that be, I am now satisfied that in what I then 
said, / did great and grievous injustice to the merit of 
these Lectures, and was quite wrong in dissuading their 
publication, or concluding that they would add nothing 
to the reputation of the author ; on the contrary, my 
firm impression is, that, with few exceptions, they will do 
him as much credit as any thing he ever wrote, and pro- 
duce, on the whole, a stronger impression of the force 
and vivacity of his intellect, as well as a truer and more 
engaging view of his character, than most of what the 
world has yet seen of his writings. The book seems to 
me to be full of good sense, acuteness, and right feeling 
— very clearly and pleasingly written — and with such an 
admirable mixture of logical intrepidity, with the ab- 
sence of all dogmatism, as is rarely met with in the con- 
duct of such discussions. Some of the conclusions 
may be questionable ; but I do think them generally 
just, and never propounded with any thing like arrogance 
or in any tone of assumption, and the whole subject 
treated with quite as much, either of subtilty or profund 
ity, as was compatible with a popular exposition of it. 


" I retract therefore, peremptorily and firmly, the ad- 
vice I formerly gave against the publication of these 
discourses ; and earnestly recommend you to lose no 
time in letting the public at large have the pleasure and 
benefit of their perusal The subject, perhaps, may 
prevent them from making any great or immediate sen- 
sation ; but I feel that they will excite considerable in- 
terest, and command universal respect ; while the pre- 
vious circulation of your 100 eleemosynary copies, 
among persons who probably include the most authorita- 
tive and efficient guides of public taste and opinion now 
living, must go far to secure its early and favorable 

" I write this hurriedly, after finishing my legal prepa- 
rations for to-morrow, and feel that I shall sleep better 
for this disburdening of my conscience. I feel, too, as 
if I was secure of your acceptance of this tardy recan- 
tation of my former heresies ; and that you will be 
pleased, and even perhaps a little proud, of your conver- 
tite ! But if not, I can only say that I shall willingly 
submit to any penance you can find in your heart to 
impose on me. I know enough of that heart of old, not 
to be very apprehensive of its severity ; and now good 
night, and God bless you ! I am very old, and have 
many infirmities ; but I am tenacious of old friendships, 
and find much of my present enjoyments in the recol- 
lections of the past. 

" With all good and kind wishes, 
" Ever very gratefully and affectionately yours, 

"F. Jeffrey." 


These Elementary Lectures, on Moral (or Mental) Philosophy, 
were delivered in the Royal Institution in the years 1804-5-6, 
before a mixed audience of ladies and gentlemen, upon a subject 
very little considered then in this country. 

They are scarcely more than an enumeration of those great 
men that have originated and treated on this important science, 
with a short account of their various opinions, and frequent com- 
pilations from their works. 

Though Mr. Sydney Smith had had the advantage of a close 
attendance, for five years, upon the beautiful lectures delivered by 
Mr. Dugald Stewart in the University of Edinburgh, and an 
almost daily communication with him, and with that remarkable 
man Dr. Thomas Brown, who succeeded Mr. Stewart in the pro- 
fessor's chair of Moral Philosophy, yet these Lectures, from the 
circumstances under which they were delivered, were necessarily 
very superficial ; it being impossible to fix the attention of persons 
wholly unaccustomed to such abstruse and difficult subjects, with 
any beneficial effect, for the prescribed time of the Lecture. 

Some portions of the first course of Lectures were, a few 
years after, amplified and embodied in the "Edinburgh Review," 
under the titles of Professional Education,* Female Education, 
and Public Schools ; and as he considered what remained could 
be of no further use, he destroyed several, and was proceeding to 
destroy the whole. An earnest entreaty was made that those 
not yet torn up might be spared, and it was granted. 

* These subjects were introduced in the Lectures on Memory, on Imag- 
ination, and on Association. 

Vlll NOTE. 

These Lectures then (the first course being rendered very im- 
perfect, though from the ninth they are perfect and consecutive) 
profess to be nothing more than a popular colloquial sketch of a 
very curious and interesting subject, written to be spoken. They 
are given in clear language, often illustrated by happy allusions, 
by eloquence, and by a playfulness of fancy that was eminently 
his own. 

Though very far from a learned book, it may prove perhaps 
an interesting one ; conveying great truths, and much useful 
knowledge, in a less dry and repulsive shape than in a discussion 
on Moral Philosophy they are commonly to be found. 



Introductory Lecture 18 


History of Moral Philosophy 26 


History of Moral Philosophy. — Part 2. {Imperfect) . . . .42 


On the Powers of External Perception. {Imperfect) . . .60 

On Conception 76 

On Memory 83 

On Imagination , * 89 



On Reason and Judgment 93 


On the Conduct of the Understanding 95 

On Wit and Humor 112 

On Wit and Humor.— Part 2 131 

On Taste 147 

On the Beautiful 163 

On the Beautiful.— Part 2 177 

On the Beautiful.— Part 3 193 

On the Sublime 208 


On the Faculties of Animals, as compared with those of Men . . 224 


On the Faculties of Beasts 239 



On the Conduct of the Understanding. — Part 2 256 


On the Active Powers of the Mind 2*73 


On the Evil Affections 288 


On the Benevolent Affections 304 

On the Passions 320 

On the Desires 335 


On Surprise, Novelty, and Variety 348 

On Habit 362 

On Habit.— Part 2 311 



By the term Moral Philosophy, is popularly under- 
stood ethical philosophy ; or that science which teaches 
the duties of life : but Moral Philosophy, properly speak- 
ing, is contrasted to natural philosophy ; comprehending 
every thing spiritual, as that comprehends every thing 
corporeal, and constituting the most difficult and the 
most sublime of those two divisions under which all 
human knowledge must be arranged. 

In this sense, Moral Philosophy is used by Berkeley, 
by Hartley, by Hutches on, by Adam Smith, by Hume, 
by Reid, and by Stewart. In this sense it is taught in 
the Scotch Universities, where alone it is taught in this 
island ; and in this sense it comprehends all the intel- 
lectual, active, and moral faculties of man ; the laws by 
which they are governed ; the limits by which they are 
controlled ; and the means by which they may be im- 
proved : it aims at discovering, by the accurate analysis 
of his spiritual part, the system of action most agreeable 
to the intentions of his Maker, and most conducive to 
the happiness of man. 

There is a word of dire sound and horrible import 
which I would fain have kept concealed if I possibly 
could ; but as this is not feasible, I shall even meet the 
danger at once, and get out of it as well as I can. The 
word to which I allude is that very tremendous one of 
Metaphysics ; which, in a lecture on Moral Philosophy, 
seems likely to produce as much alarm as the cry of fire 


in a crowded play-house, when Belvidera is left to weep 
by herself, and every one saves himself in the best 
manner he can. I must beg my audience, however, to 
sit quiet, till they hear what can be said in defense of 
Metaphysics, and in the mean time to make use of the 
language which the manager would probably adopt on 
such an occasion, — I can assure ladies and gentlemen, 
there is not the smallest degree of danger. 

The term Metaphysics has no sort of relation to its 
meaning ; — and various attempts have been made to 
substitute a more appropriate word in its place, — hitherto 
without success. Psychology, and Pneumatology, are 
both candidate expressions for filling this vacancy in our 
language ; but though no objections can be stated to 
either, they have neither of them fairly got into circula- 
tion (even among the few who, by cultivating this 
science, have acquired a right to adjust the language in 
which it is taught) ; but by whatever name the science 
of the human mind is signified, it has precisely the same 
foundation in reality that any science conversant with 
the properties of matter can have. The existence of 
mind is as much a matter of fact as the existence of 
matter : it is as true that men remember, as that oxygen 
united to carbon makes carbonic acid. I am as sure that 
anger, and affection, are principles of the human mind, 
as I am, that grubs make cockchafers ; or of any of those 
great truths which botanists teach of lettuces and cauli- 
flowers. The same patient observation, and the same 
caution in inferring, are as necessary for the establish- 
ment of truth in this science as in any other : rash 
hypothesis misleads as much, modest diligence repays as 
well. Whatever has been done for this philosophy has 
been done by the inductive method only ; and to that 
alone, it must look for all the improvement of which it 
is capable. So that those who would cast a ridicule 
upon Metaphysics, or the intellectual part of Moral 
Philosophy, as if it were vague and indefinite in its 
object, must either contend that we have no faculties at 
all, and that no general facts are to be observed con- 
cerning them, or they must allow to this science an 
equal precision with that which any other can claim. 


A great deal of unpopularity has been incurred by 
this science from the extravagances or absurdities of 
those who have been engaged in it. When the mass of 
mankind hear that all thought is explained by vibrations 
and vibratiuncles of the brain,— that there is no such 
thing as a material world,— that what mankind consider 
as their arms, and legs, are not arms and legs, but ideas 
accompanied with the notion of outness, — that we have 
not only no bodies, but no minds ; — that we are nothing, 
in short, but currents of reflection and sensation; all 
this, I admit, is well calculated to approximate, in' the 
public mind, the ideas of lunacy and intellectual philoso- 
phy. But if it be fair to argue against a science, from 
the bad method in which it is prosecuted, such a mode 
of reasoning ought to have influenced mankind centuries 
ago to have abandoned all the branches of physics, as 
utterly hopeless. I have surely an equal right to rake 
up the moldy errors of all the other sciences ;— to 
reproach astronomy with its vortices, — chemistry with 
its philosopher's stone,— history with its fables,— law 
with its cruelty, and ignorance; — and if I were to open 
this battery against medicine, I do not know where I 
should stop. Zinzis Khan, when he was most crimsoned 
with blood, never slaughtered the human race as they 
have been slaughtered by rash and erroneous theories of 

If there be a real foundation for this science, if ob- 
servation can do any thing, and has not done all, there 
is room for hope, and reason for exertion. The extrava- 
gances by which it has been disgraced, ought to warn 
us of the difficulty, without leading us to despair. To 
say there is no path, because we have often got into the 
wrong path, puts an end to all other knowledge as well 
as to this. 

The truth is, it fares worse with this science than 
with many others, because its errors and extravagances 
are comprehended by so many. If you tell a man that 
the ground on which he stamps is not ground, but an 
idea, he naturally enough thinks you mad. If the same 
person were told that the planets were rolled about in 
whirlpools, or that the moon, as Descartes thought, was 


once a sun, — such a person, who would laugh at the 
former, might hear these latter opinions advanced, with- 
out being struck with their absurdity. Every man is 
not necessarily an astronomer, but every man has some 
acquaintance with the operations of his own mind ; and 
you can not deviate grossly from the truth on these sub- 
jects, without incurring his ridicule, and reprehension. 
This perhaps is one cause why errors of this nature have 
been somewhat unduly magnified. 

Skepticism, which is commonly laid to the charge of 
this philosophy, may, in the first place, be fairly said to 
have done its worst. Bishop Berkeley destroyed this 
world in one volume octavo; and nothing remained 
after his time, but mind ; which experienced a similar 
fate from the hand of Mr. Hume in 1737 ;— so that, with 
all the tendency to destroy, there remains nothing left 
for destruction : but I would fain ask if there be any 
one human being, from the days of Protagoras the 
Abderite to this present hour, who was ever for a single 
instant a convert to these subtile and ingenious follies ? 
Is there any one out of Bedlam who doubts of the exist- 
ence of matter ? who doubts of his own personal 
identity ? or of his consciousness ? or of the general 
credibility of memory ? Men talk on such subjects from 
ostentation, or because such wire-drawn speculations are 
an agreeable exercise to them ; but they are perpetually 
recalled by the necessary business and the inevitable 
feelings of life to sound and sober opinions on these sub- 
jects. Errors, to be dangerous, must have a great deal 
of truth mingled with them ; it is only from this alliance 
that they can ever obtain an extensive circulation : 
from pure extravagance, and genuine, unmingled false- 
hood, the world never has, and never can sustain any 
mischief. It is not in our power to believe all that we 
please ; our belief is modified and restrained by the 
nature of our faculties, and by the constitution of the 
objects by which we are surrounded. We may believe 
any thing for a moment, but we shall soon be lashed out 
of our impertinence, by hard and stubborn realities. A 
great philosopher may sit in his study, and deny the 
existence of matter ; but if he take a walk in the streets 


he must take care to leave his theory behind him. Pyrrho 
said there was no such thing as pain ; and he saw no 
proof that there were such things as carts, and wagons ; 
and he refused to get out of their way : but Pyrrho had, 
fortunately for him, three or four stout slaves, who 
followed their master, without following his doctrine ; 
and whenever they saw one of these ideal machines 
approaching, took him up by the arms and legs, and, 
without attempting to controvert his arguments, put him 
down in a place of safety. If you will build an error 
upon some foundation of truth, you may effect your 
object ; you may divert a little rivulet from the great 
stream of nature, and train it cautiously, and obliquely, 
away ; but if you place yourself in the very depth of her 
almighty channel, and combat with her eternal streams, 
you will be swept off without ruffling the smoothness, or 
impeding the vigor, of her course. 

With respect to skepticism on subjects of natural and 
revealed religion, I can really see no connection between 
such species of doubts, and an investigation into the 
structure of the human mind. Thus much is true, that 
out of a certain number of men who exercise their un- 
derstanding vigorously, and the same number who do 
not exercise it at all, we shall have many more dissen- 
tients to any thing established by evidence, among the 
first class, than the second. Among a hundred plough- 
men, we should not find one skeptic ; among the same 
number of men of very cultivated faculties, we should 
probably find some who entertained captious and frivo- 
lous doubts against religion ; but then there is no more 
probability that this science should produce such men, 
than any other science, which compels us to a rigorous 
exercise of all the powers of the mind : the objection 
seems to be against exercising the faculties altogether, 
not against exercising them in this particular manner ; 
but surely it is a sad way to cure the excesses of the 
human mind, by benumbing it ; and a very narrow view 
of the resources of art, to suppose there is no other 
remedy for the irregular action of any part, than by its 
destruction. I might do here what I have done before 
in speaking of the extravagance of some reasoners upon 


these subjects,— institute a parallel between the tendency 
to religious skepticism, produced by this science, and 
many others ; a much wiser and better man than I, 
however, shall do it for me. In speaking of the decline 
of materialism, Mr. Dugald Stewart says :* " There has 
certainly been, since the time of Descartes, a continual, 
and, on the whole, a very remarkable approach to the 
inductive plan of studying human nature. We may 
trace this in the writings even of those who profess to 
consider thought merely as an agitation of the brain. 
In the writings of Helvetius and of Hume, both of whom, 
although they may occasionally have expressed them- 
selves in an unguarded manner concerning the nature 
of mind, have, in their most useful and practical disquisi- 
tions, been prevented, by their own good sense, from 
blending any theory with respect to the causes of the 
intellectual phenomena with the history of facts, or the 
investigation of general laws. The authors who form 
the most conspicuous exceptions to this gradual progress, 
consist chiefly of men whose errors may be easily ac- 
counted for, by the prejudices connected with their 
circumscribed habits of observation and inquiry; — of 
physiologists, accustomed to attend to that part alone of 
the human frame which the knife of the anatomist can 
lay open ; — or of chemists, who enter on the analysis of 
thought, fresh from the decompositions of the laboratory; 
carrying into the theory of mind itself (what Bacon ex- 
pressively calls) the smoke and tarnish of the furnace." 
But what are we to do ? If the enemies of religion de- 
rive subtilty and acuteness from this pursuit, ought not 
their own weapons to be turned against them ? and 
ought not some to study for defense, if others do for the 
purposes of aggression ? When the old anarch Hobbes 
came out to destroy the foundations of morals, who en- 
tered the lists against him ? Not a man afraid of meta- 
physics, not a man who had become skeptical as he had 
become learned, but Ralph Cudworth, Doctor of Divinity 
— a man who had learned much from reading the errors 
of the human mind, and from deep meditation its nature : 

* Life of Reid, p. 81. 1802. 


who made use of those errors to avoid them, and derived 
from that meditation principles too broad and too deep 
to be shaken : such a man was gained to the cause of 
morality, and religion, by these sciences. These sci- 
ences certainly made no infidel of Bishop Warburton, 
as Chubb, Morgan, Tindal, and half a dozen others found 
to their cost. Tucker, the author of " The Light of 
Nature," was no skeptic, Locke was no skeptic, Hartley 
was no skeptic, nor was Lord Verulam. Malebranche 
and Arnauld were both of them exceedingly pious men. 
We none of us can believe that Dr. Paley has exercised 
his mind upon intellectual philosophy in vain. The 
fruits of it in him, are sound sense delivered so perspic- 
uously that a man may profit by it, and a child may 
comprehend it : solid decision, not anticipated by inso- 
lence, but earned by fair argument ; manly piety, un- 
adulterated by superstition, and never disgraced by cant. 
The child that is unborn will thank that man for his 

I have already quoted too many names, but I must 
not omit one which would alone have been sufficient to 
have shown that there is no necessary connection be- 
tween skepticism and the philosophy of the human mind ; 
I mean Bishop Butler. To his sermons we are indebted 
for the complete overthrow of the selfish system ; and to 
his " Analogy," for the most noble and surprising defense 
of revealed religion, perhaps, which has ever yet been 
made of any system whatever. But there is no occasion 

* Sir James Mackintosh says, in his introductory Law lecture (p. 32): 
— " The same reason will excuse me for passing over in silence the works 
of many philosophers and moralists, to whom, in the course of my pro- 
posed lectures, I shall owe and confess the greatest obligations ; and it 
might perhaps deliver me from the necessity of speaking of Dr. Paley, if 
I were not desirous of this public opportunity of professing my gratitude 
for the instruction and pleasure which I have received from that excel- 
lent writer, who possesses, in so eminent a degree, those invaluable quali- 
ties of a moralist — good sense, caution, sobriety, and perpetual reference 
to convenience and practice ; and who certainly is thought less original 
than he really is, merely because his taste and modesty have led him to 
disdain the ostentation of novelty, and because he generally employs more 
art to blend his own arguments with the body of received opinions (so as 
that they are scarce to be distinguished), than other men, in the pursuit 
of a transient popularity, have exerted to disguise the most miserable 
commonplaces in the shape of paradox." 


to prop this argument up by great names. The school 
of natural religion is the contemplation of nature ; the 
ancient anatomist who was an atheist, was converted by 
the study of the human body : he thought it impossible 
that so many admirable contrivances should exist, with- 
out an intelligent cause ; — and if men can become reli- 
gious from looking at an entrail, or a nerve, can they be 
taught atheism from analyzing the structure of the human 
mind ? Are not the affections and passions which shake 
the very entrails of man, and the thoughts and feelings 
which dart along those nerves, more indicative of a God 
than the vile perishing instruments themselves ? Can 
you remember the nourishment which springs up in the 
breast of a mother, and forget the feelings which spring 
up in her heart ? If God made the blood of man, did he 
not make that feeling, which summons the blood to his 
face, and makes it the sign of guilt and of shame ? You 
may show me a human hand, expatiate upon the singular 
contrivance of its sinews, and bones ; how admirable, 
how useful, for all the purposes of grasp, and flexure : i" 
will show you, in return, the mind, receiving her tribute 
from the senses ; — comparing, reflecting, compounding, 
dividing, abstracting ; — the passions soothing, aspiring, 
exciting, till the whole world falls under the dominion 
of man ; evincing that in his mind the Creator has reared 
up the noblest emblem of his wisdom, and his power. 
The philosophy of the human mind is no school for infi- 
delity, but it excites the warmest feelings of piety, and 
defends them with the soundest reason. 

One of the great impediments attendant upon this 
branch of knowledge is the natural and original difficulty 
of reflecting upon the operations of our own minds. It 
is much more easy, for instance, to think of the parts of 
an intricate machine, than of any act of memory, judg- 
ment, or imagination. We may attribute this to the 
necessity we are under of attending to objects of sense, 
from our earliest infancy. We are under no necessity 
of attending with great carefulness and precision to the 
operations of our minds ; but we must examine, over and 
over again, with extreme care, the ideas of our senses, 
for the mere purposes of security, and existence : this 


gives us a familiarity with one set of ideas, that we have 
had no opportunity of acquiring in the other ; and makes 
this species of study very difficult, and very painful. 

Perhaps no habit would ever render it as easy to 
attend to the manner in which our mind acts, as to 
attend to those notions we have gathered from the eye, 
and the ear, and the touch. Providence, intending man 
for a life of greater activity than contemplation, has 
placed this impediment to the free exercise of thought, 
and made use of the pain which generally accompanies 
profound meditation, as a check and barrier to human 

Another difficulty which attends this study, is the 
metaphorical nature of its language. Mankind first give, 
names to the objects of sense which surround them, — to 
the sun, the wind, the rain, the mountains, woods, and 
sea ; and having established this nomenclature, they call 
the mind, and its faculties, by the name of some object to 
which they appear to bear a resemblance. For the soul, 
they have generally taken the name of the most subtile 
and invisible fluid with which they were acquainted ; 
and, accordingly, in a great variety of languages it is 
signified by the same word which signifies wind, or 

The misfortune is, that this borrowed language insen- 
sibly betrays us into false notions of the human under- 
standing, from which we find it rather difficult to 
disentangle ourselves. For instance, we talk about 
recollecting a place as if we had gathered together the 

* " It may lead us a little toward the original of all our notions and 
knowledge, if we remark how great a dependence our words have on 
common sensible ideas, and how those which are made use of to stand for 
actions and notions quite removed from sense, have their rise from thence, 
and from obvious, sensible ideas, are transferred to more abstruse signifi- 
cations, and made to stand for ideas, that come not under the cognizance 
of our senses ; v. g., to imagine, apprehend, comprehend, adhere, conceive, 
instill, disgust, disturbance, tranquillity, (fee, are all words taken from the 
operations of sensible things, and applied to certain modes of thinking. 
Spirit, in its primary signification, is breath ; — angel, a messenger : and I 
doubt not, but, if we could trace them to their sources, we should find, in 
all languages, the names, which stand for things that fall under our senses, 
to have had their first rise from sensible ideas." — Locke, book iii. chap. i. 
paragraph 5, p. 190. 


ideas of the parlor, and the drawing-room, and the 
grass-plot, which lay dispersed in different parts of the 
brain, and put them into the order in which they really 
exist. This is what the word seems to suggest, and 
what, I fancy, many people actually suppose to take 
place in their understandings ; whereas the real fact is 
(as I shall show in some future lecture at full length), 
that one idea of the whole train first presents itself to 
our mind, and after we have made every effort to dwell 
upon, and retain this, the others follow of their own ac- 
cord, without any power of ours, exactly in the order in 
which they had been previously observed. It would, 
however, be extremely curious and useful, to collect, in 
a great variety of languages, all the similitudes which 
mankind have hit upon, for the operations and divisions 
of the faculties of the mind. Such a long, extensive, and 
authentic record of human opinions upon these subjects, 
might give birth to many interesting speculations, and 
throw some light upon questions which have long been 
the opprobrium of this science. 

Some very considerable men are accustomed to hold 
very strong and sanguine language respecting the 
important discoveries which are to be made in Moral 
Philosophy, from a close attention to facts ; and by that 
method of induction which has been so invaluably em- 
ployed in Natural Philosophy : but then this appears to 
be the difference ; — that Natural Philosophy is directed 
to subjects with which we are little or imperfectly ac- 
quainted ; Moral Philosophy investigates faculties we 
have always exercised, and passions we have always 
felt. Chemistry, for instance, is perpetually bringing to 
light fresh existences ; four or five new metals have been 
discovered within as many years, of the existence of 
which no human being could have had any suspicion ; 
but no man, that I know of, pretends to discover four or 
five new passions, neither can any thing very new be 
discovered of those passions and faculties with which 
mankind are already familiar. We are, in natural philos- 
ophy, perpetually making discoveries of new properties 
in bodies, with whose existence we have been acquainted 
for centuries : Sir James Hall has just discovered that 


lime can be melted by carbonic acid ; — but who hopes 
that he can discover any new flux for avarice ? or any 
improved method of judging, and comparing ? We have 
have had no occasion to busy ourselves with the chro- 
mian or Titanian metal ; but we have commonly em- 
ployed our minds for twenty or thirty years, before we 
begin to speculate upon them. 

There may, indeed, be speculative discoveries made 
with respect to the human mind ; for instance, Mr. 
Dugald Stewart contends that attention should be 
classed among our faculties. Now if attention be a 
faculty, it is certainly a discovery, for nobody had ever 
so classed it before Mr. Stewart : but whether it be so, 
or only a mode of other faculties, it is of no consequence 
in practice ; for nobody has ever been ignorant of the 
importance and efficacy of attention, whether it be one 
thing, or whether it be the other. 

So with that notion of the Rev. Mr. Gay's, that all 
our passions are explicable upon the principle of asso- 
ciation ; if this opinion be true, it is a discovery, and a 
curious one. But -then it affords no practical rule, for 
mankind are too much acquainted with practical rules 
to allow of such pure novelty as would constitute dis- 

Of the uses of this science of Moral Philosophy one 
is — the vigor and acuteness, which it is apt to com- 
municate to the faculties. The slow and cautious pace 
of mathematics is not fit for the rough road of life ; it 
teaches no habits which will be of use to us when we 
come to march in good earnest : it will not do, when 
men come to real business, to be calling for axioms, and 
definitions, and to admit nothing without full proof, and 
perfect deduction ; we must decide sometimes upon the 
slightest evidence, catch the faintest surmise, and get to 
the end of an affair before a mathematical head could 
decide about its commencement. I am not comparing 
the general value of the two sciences, but merely their 
value as preparatory exercises for the mind ; and there, 
it appears to me that the science of Moral Philosophy is 
much better calculated to form intellectual habits, useful 
in real life. The subtilties about mind and matter, 


cause and effect, perception and sensation, may be for- 
gotten ; but the power of nice discrimination, of arresting 
and examining the most subtile and evanescent ideas, 
and of striking rapidly, and boldly, into the faintest track 
of analogy ; to see where it leads, and what it will pro- 
duce ; an emancipation from the tyranny of words, an 
undaunted intrepidity to push opinions up to their first 
causes ; — all these virtues remain, in the dexterous poli- 
tician, the acute advocate, and the unerring judge. 

I have said that no practical discoveries can be made 
in Moral Philosophy, because I think the word discovery 
implies so much originality, and novelty, that I can 
hardly suppose they will be met with in a subject with 
which mankind are so familiar. But then opinions may 
be discoveries to the individual, which are not discov- 
eries to the world at large. It may be of incalcuable 
advantage to me, at an early period of life, to guard my 
understanding from the pernicious effects of association ; 
though those effects can not now be pointed out for the 
first time ; I might have learned something about 
association without the aid of this science, by the mere 
intercourse of life, but I should not have learned that 
lesson so early, and so well. I am no longer left to 
gather this important law of my nature from accidental 
and disconnected remark, but it is brought fully and 
luminously before me ; — I see that one man differs from 
another in the rank and nobleness of his understanding, 
in proportion as he counteracts this intellectual attrac- 
tion of cohesion ; I become permanently, and vigilantly, 
suspicious of this principle in my own mind ; and when 
called upon, in the great occasions of life, to think, and 
to act, I separate my judgment from the mere accidents 
of my life, and decide, not according to the casualties 
of my fortune, but the unbiased dictates of my reason : 
without this science, I might have had a general, and 
faint suspicion — with it, I have a rooted and operative 
conviction — of the errors to which my understanding is 
exposed. If it be useful to our talents, and virtues, to 
turn the mind inwardly upon itself, and to observe 
attentively the facts relative to our passions and faculties, 
this is the value, and this the object, of Moral Philosophy. 


It teaches, for the conduct of the understanding, a 
variety of delicate rules which can result only from such 
sort of meditation ; and it gradually subjects the most 
impetuous feelings to patient examination and wise con- 
trol : it inures the youthful mind to intellectual difficulty, 
and to enterprise in thinking ; and makes it as keen as 
an eagle, and as unwearied as the wing of an angel. In 
looking round the region of spirit, from the mind of the 
brute and the reptile, to the sublimest exertions of the 
human understanding, this philosophy lays deep the 
foundations of a fervent and grateful piety, for those 
intellectual riches which have been dealt out to us with 
no scanty measure. With sensation alone, we might 
have possessed the earth, as it is possessed by the lowest 
order of beings : but we have talents which bend all the 
laws of nature to our service ; memory for the past, 
providence for the future, — senses which mingle pleasure 
with intelligence, the surprise of novelty, the boundless 
energy of imagination, accuracy in comparing, and 
severity in judging ; an original affection, which binds 
us together in society ; a swiftness to pity ; a fear of 
shame ; a love of esteem ; a detestation of all that is 
cruel, mean, and unjust. All these things Moral Philoso- 
phy observes, and, observing, adores the Being from 
whence they proceed. 




I purpose to give, in this lecture, a succinct history of 
opinions, both in the intellectual and active divisions of 
Moral Philosophy ; from the formation of the great 
schools in Greece to the present time. 

Of the principles from which the obligations to virtue 
proceed, most sects have given an account which is at 
least intelligible, however each particular persuasion 
may vary from that which precedes it : but the specula- 
tions of many of the ancients on the human understand- 
ing, are so confused, and so purely hypothetical, that 
their greatest admirers are not agreed upon their mean- 
ing; and whenever we can procure a plain statement 
of their doctrines, all other modes of refuting them 
appear to be w T holly superfluous. 

Whoever is fond of picking up little bits of wisdom, 
in great heaps of folly, and of seeing Moral Philosophy 
and common sense beaming through the gross darkness 
of polytheism, and poetical fiction, may sit down and 
trace this science from Zoroaster the Chaldean, Belus the 
Assyrian, and Berosus, who taught the Chaldean learning 
to the Greeks. He will find a very pleasant obscurity 
in all that we know of the opinions of Zoroaster, of the 
Persian Magi, Hystaspes, and Hostanes. Of those 
celebrated men Cadmus, and Sanchoniathon, and poor 
Moschus the Phoenician, so heartily abused by Dr. Cud- 
worth, he may pick up some acute remarks of Theut, or 
Thoth, the founder of Egyptian wisdom, and philosophize 
with Abaris, Anacharsis, Toxaris, and Zamolxis, the 
learned Scythians. Passing by all these gallant gentle- 
men (for whose company I confess I have no very great 


relish), I shall descend at once upon Athens, where 
philosophy, as Milton says, came down from heaven to 
the low-roofed house of Socrates. 

" from whose mouth issued forth 

Mellifluous streams that watered all the schools 
Of Academics old and new ; with those 
Surnamed Peripatetics, and the sect 
Epicurean, and the Stoic severe." 

The morality of Socrates was reared upon the basis 
of religion. The principles of virtuous conduct which 
are common to all mankind, are, according to this wise 
and good man, laws of God ; and the argument by which 
he supports this opinion is, that no man departs from 
these principles with impunity. " It is frequently possi- 
ble," says he, " for men to screen themselves from the 
penalty of human laws, but no man can be unjust or 
ungrateful without suffering for his crime — hence I con- 
clude that these laws must have proceeded from a more 
excellent legislator than man." Socrates taught that 
true felicity is not to be derived from external possessions, 
but from wisdom ; which consists in the knowledge and 
practice of virtue ; — that the cultivation of virtuous 
manners is necessarily attended with pleasure as well as 
profit ; — that the honest man alone, is happy ; — and that 
it is absurd to attempt to separate things which are in 
their nature so united as virtue and interest. 

Socrates was, in truth, not very fond of subtile and 
refined speculations ; and upon the intellectual part of 
our nature, little or nothing of his opinions is recorded. 
If we may infer any thing from the clearness and sim- 
plicity of his opinions on moral subjects, and from the 
bent which his genius had received for the useful and 
the practical, he would certainly have laid a strong- 
foundation for rational metaphysics. The slight sketch 
I have given of his moral doctrines contains nothing 
very new or very brilliant, but comprehends those moral 
doctrines which every person of education has been 
accustomed to hear from his childhood ; — but two thou- 
sand years ago they were great discoveries, — two thou- 
sand years since, common sense was not invented. If 
Orpheus, or Linus, or any of those melodious moralists, 


sung, in bad verses, such advice as a grand-mamma 
would now give to a child of six years old, he was 
thought to be inspired by the gods, and statues and altars 
were erected to his memory. In Hesiod there is a very 
grave exhortation to mankind to wash their faces : and 
I have discovered a very strong analogy between the 
precepts of Pythagoras and Mrs. Trimmer ; — both think 
that a son ought to obey his father, and both are clear 
that a good man is better than a bad one. Therefore, 
to measure aright this extraordinary man, we must 
remember the period at which he lived ; that he was the 
first who called the attention of mankind from the perni- 
cious subtilties which engaged and perplexed their 
wandering understandings to the practical rules of life ; — 
he was the great father and inventor of common sense, 
as Ceres was of the plow, and Bacchus of intoxication. 
First he taught his cotemporaries that they did not know 
what they pretended to know ; then he showed them 
that they knew nothing ; then he told them what they 
ought to know. Lastly, to sum up the praise of Socrates, 
remember that two thousand years ago, while men were 
worshiping the stones on which they trod, and the 
insects which crawled beneath their feet ; — two thousand 
years ago, with the bowl of poison in his hand, Socrates 
said, " I am persuaded that my death, which is now just 
coming, will conduct me into the presence of the gods, 
who are the most righteous governors, and into the society 
of just and good men ; and I derive confidence from the 
hope that something of man remains after death, and 
that the condition of good men will then be much better 
than that of the bad." Soon after this he covered him- 
self up with his cloak and expired. 

From the Socratic school sprang the Cyrenaic, the 
Eliac, the Megaric, the Academic, and the Cynic. Of 
all these I shall notice only the Academic, because all 
the rest are of very inferior note. 

Of all the disciples of Socrates, Plato, though he calls 
himself the least, was certainly the most celebrated. As 
long as philosophy continued to be studied among the 
Greeks and Romans, his doctrines were taught, and his 
name revered. Even to the present day his writings 


give a tinge to the language and speculations of philos- 
ophy and theology. Of the majestic beauty of Plato's 
style, it is almost impossible to convey an adequate idea. 
He keeps the understanding up to a high pitch of enthu- 
siasm longer than any existing writer ; and, in reading 
Plato, zeal and animation seem rather to be the regular 
feelings than the casual effervescence of the mind. He 
appears almost disdaining the mutability and imperfection 
of the earth on which he treads, to be drawing down fire 
from heaven, and to be seeking among the gods above, 
for the permanent, the beautiful, and the grand! In 
contrasting the vigor and the magnitude of his concep- 
tions with the extravagance of his philosophical tenets, 
it is almost impossible to avoid wishing that he had con- 
fined himself to the practice of eloquence ; and, in this 
way giving range and expansion to the mind which was 
struggling within him, had become one of those famous 
orators who 

" Wielded at will that fierce democratic, 
Shook th' arsenal, and fulmin'd over Greece 
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne." 

After having said so much of his language, I am afraid 
I must proceed to his philosophy; observing always, 
that, in stating it, I do not always pretend to understand 
it, and do not even engage to defend it. In comparing 
the very few marks of sobriety and discretion with the 
splendor of his genius, I have often exclaimed as Prince 
Henry did about Falstaff's bill, — " Oh, monstrous ! but 
one halfpennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of 
sack !" 

His notion was, that the principles out of which the 
world was composed were three in number, — the subject 
matter of things, their specific essences, and the sensible 
objects themselves. These last, he conceived to have 
no probable or durable existence, but to be always in a 
state of fluctuation : — but then there were certain ever- 
lasting patterns and copies, from which every thing had 
been made, and which he denominated their specific 
essences. For instance, the individual rose which I 
smell at this instant, or a particular pony upon which I 
cast my eye, are objects of sense which have no durable 


existence ; — the individual idea I have of them this mo- 
ment is not numerically the same as the idea which I 
had the moment before ; just as the river which I pass 
now is not the same river which I passed half an hour 
before, because the individual water in which I trod has 
glided away : therefore these appearances of the rose, 
and the pony, are of very little importance ; but there is 
somewhere or other an eternal pony, and an eternal rose, 
after the pattern of which one and the other have been 
created. The same with actions as with things. If 
Plato had seen one person make a bow to another, he 
would have said that the particular bow was a mere 
visible species ; but there was an unchanging bow which 
had existed from all eternity, and which was the model 
and archetype and specific essence of all other bows. 
But, says Plato, all things in this world are individuals. 
We see this man, and that man, and the other man; 
but a man — the general notion of a man — we do not, 
and can not gain from our senses : therefore we have 
existed in some previous state, where we have gained 
these notions of uuiversal natures. In childhood, where 
human creatures are governed by the feelings of the 
body, these general ideas are forgotten : but in propor- 
tion as reason assumes the reins of empire, we call to 
mind these eternal exemplars, of which our understand- 
ing had before taken notice in a previous state of exist- 
ence. Thus, to form general ideas was merely an act 
of memory ; — and in this manner Plato attempted to 
overcome a difficulty which, two thousand years after- 
ward, drove Malebranche to a theory equally extrava- 
gant, w T as too hard for Mr. Locke, and was settled, at 
fast, by the extraordinary acuteness of Bishop Berkeley. 
Plato's ideas of virtue were these : he divided the soul 
into three different natures — reason, or the governing 
power ; the passions founded on pride and resentment, 
or the irascible part of our nature ; and the passions 
which have pleasure for their object, and which we 
commonly call by the name of appetites. Virtue, ac- 
cording to this system, then exhibited herself when each 
of these three faculties of the mind confined itself to its 
proper office, without attempting to encroach upon that 


of any other; — when reason, directed, and passion obeyed ; 
and when each passion performed its proper duty easily, 
and without reluctance. Of this system it may be shortly 
remarked, that it is generally good as far as it goes, but 
that it does not go far enough ; for if you tell me that 
prudence and propriety are the test of virtue, I ask you 
why are they the test of virtue ? If you can give me no 
reason, why do you call them so ? and if you can, the 
system does not reach the foundation of morals, or afford 
me the ultimate reason why one action is better than 

The school of Plato long continued famous, but passed 
through several changes ; on account of which it was 
distinguished into the old, the middle, and the new 
Academy. The old Academy consisted of those fol- 
lowers of Plato who taught his doctrine without cor- 
ruption. It was the doctrine of the new Academy 
(founded by Carneades) that the senses, the understand- 
ing, and the imagination, frequently deceive us, and 
therefore can not be infallible judges of truth ; but that, 
from the impressions which we perceive to be produced 
on the mind by means of the senses, we infer appearances 
of truth, or probabilities : these impressions Carneades 
called phantasies or images. He maintained that they 
do not always correspond to the real nature of things ; 
and that there is no infallible method of determining 
when they are true or false. Nevertheless, with respect 
to the conduct of life and the pursuit of happiness, Car- 
neades held, that probable appearances are a sufficient 
guide, because it is unreasonable not to allow some de- 
gree of credit to those witnesses who commonly give a 
true report. 

Of probabilities Carneades made the following scale : 
— The lowest degree was, where the mind, in the casual 
occurrence of any single image, perceived in it nothing 
contrary to nature or truth. The second was, when the 
circumstances by which that image was accompanied 
afforded no appearance of inconsistency or incongruity 
which might lead us to suspect the truth of the sensa- 
tion : as, for instance, if I think I see a horse, the cir- 
cumstance of his appearing at the same time to be 


grazing m a meadow is an additional corroboration of 
the truth of the sensation ; but if I think I see a horse 
upon the top of a house, the circumstances which 
accompany this idea of the horse, ought to go some way 
to convince me I am mad, or dreaming. The last point 
in the scale of probabilities I can really hardly distin- 
guish from the second ; it seems only a longer and more 
serious pause, a more cautious and minute examination 
of the evidence of the senses ; — and thus much of the 
philosophy of the new Academy (stripped of the magis- 
terial and ostentatious garb in which all the Grecian 
schools tricked out their theories) seems to be good plain 
sense. All knowledge founded upon the evidence of the 
senses is, and can be, strictly speaking, nothing more 
than probable evidence. The mathematics alone afford 
us certain evidence. 

The shades of difference between the middle Academy 
and the new are so slight, and the sketch I am attempt- 
ing to give must necessarily be so very summary, that I 
shall pass over this first ramification of the Platonic 
school to the philosophy of Aristotle ; humbly imploring 
the forgiveness of those disciples of Arcesilaus, and 
favorers of the middle Academy, who may happen to be 
present this day at the Institution. 

Whoever Is fond of the biographical art, as a reposi- 
tory of the actions and the fortunes of great men, may 
enjoy an agreeable specimen of its certainty in the life 
of Aristotle. Some writers say he was a Jew ; others, 
that he got all his information from a Jew, that he kept 
an apothecary's shop, and was an atheist ; others say, on 
the contrary, that he did not keep an apothecary's shop, 
and that he was a Trinitarian. Some say he respected 
the religion of his country ; others that he offered sacri- 
fices to his wife, and made hymns in favor of his father- 
in-law. Some are of opinion he was poisoned by the 
priests ; others are clear that he died of vexation, because 
he could not discover the causes of the ebb and flow in 
the Eurlpus. We now care or know so little about 
Aristotle, that Mr. Fielding, in one of his novels, says, 
"Aristotle is not such a fool as many people believe, 
who never read a syllable of his works." 


Before the Reformation, his morals used to be read to 
the people in some of the churches of Germany, instead 
of the Scriptures ; his philosophy had an exclusive 
monopoly granted to it by the parliament of Paris, who 
forbade the use of any other in France ; and the Presi- 
dent De Thou informs us, that Paul de Foix, one of the 
most learned and elegant men of his time, in passing 
through Ferrara, refused to see the famous Patricius, or 
to meet him at any third house, because he disbelieved 
in some of the doctrines of Aristotle. Certainly the two 
human beings who have had the greatest influence upon 
the understandings of mankind have been Aristotle and 
Lord Bacon. To Lord Bacon we are indebted for an 
almost daily extension of our knowledge of the laws of 
nature in the outward world ; and the same modest and 
cautious spirit of inquiry extended to Moral Philosophy, 
will probably at last give us clear, intelligible ideas of 
our spiritual nature. Every succeeding year is an 
additional confirmation to us that we are traveling in 
the true path of knowledge ; and as it brings in fresh 
tributes of science for the increase of human happiness, 
it extorts from us fresh tributes of praise to the guide 
and father of true philosophy. To the understanding of 
Aristotle, equally vast, perhaps, and equally original, we 
are indebted for fifteen hundred years of quibbling and 
ignorance ; in which the earth fell under the tyranny of 
words, and philosophers quarreled with one another, like 
drunken men in dark rooms who hate peace without 
knowing why they fight, or seeing how to take aim. 
Professors were multiplied without the world becoming 
wiser ; and volumes of Aristotelian philosophy were 
written which, if piled one upon another, would have 
equaled the Tower of Babel in height, and far exceeded 
it in confusion. Such are the obligations we owe to the 
mighty Stagirite ; for that he was of very mighty under- 
standing, the broad circumference and the deep root of 
his philosophy most lamentably evince. His treatises 
on Government, on Rhetoric, on Poetry, are still highly 
valued. I have been speaking of him as a natural 
philosopher, as a metaphysician, and as a logician. I 
would refer those who are great sticklers for Aristotle's 


various treatises on morals to Grotius's critique on them 
in his treatise on Peace and War, and to Barbeyrac's 
preface to Puffendorf. Of his experiments Lord Bacon 
says, that, of all the ancient philosophers, Aristotle was 
the greatest enemy to experimental philosophy ; for he 
first of all laid down a theory in his own mind, and then 
distorted his experiments to support it. In his treatise 
on Government there are some very enormous and 
atrocious doctrines. 

Aristotle held, that all sensible objects were made up 
of two principles, both of which he calls equally sub- 
stances, — the matter, and the specific essence. He was 
not obliged to hold, like Plato, that those principles 
existed prior in order of time to the objects which they 
afterward composed. They were prior, he said, in 
nature, but not in time (according to a distinction which 
was of use to him upon many other occasions). He 
distinguished also between actual and potential existence : 
by the first, understanding what is commonly meant by 
existence, or reality ; by the second, the bare possibility 
of existence. Neither the material essence of body 
could, according to him, exist actually without being 
determined by some specific essence to some particular 
class of being, nor any specific essence without being 
embodied in some portion of matter. Each of these two 
principles, however, could exist potentially in a separate 
state. That matter existed potentially which, being 
endowed with a particular form, could be brought into 
actual existence ; and that form existed potentially 
which, by being embodied in a particular portion of 
matter, could in the same manner be called forth into the 
class of complete realities. What difference there is 
between the potential existence of Aristotle, and the 
separate essences of Plato, and what foundation there is 
in reality either for the one or the other, I confess 
myself wholly at a loss to comprehend. 

Virtue, according to this philosopher, consists in the 
habit of mediocrity according to right reason. Every 
particular virtue, according to him, lies in a medium 
between two opposite vices ; of which the one offends 
from being too much, the other from being too little 


affected by a particular species of objects. Thus, the 
virtue of fortitude lies in the middle between the oppo- 
site extremes of cowardice and rashness ; of which the 
one offends from being too much, the other too little 
affected by the objects of fear. And magnanimity, in 
the same manner, is a sort of medium estimation of our 
own dignity, equally removed from the extremes of 
arrogance and pusillanimity. 

Aristotle, when he made virtue to consist in practical 
habits, had it probably in view to oppose the doctrine of 
Plato, who seems to have been of opinion that just 
sentiments, and reasonable judgments, concerning what 
was fit to be done or avoided, were alone sufficient to 
constitute the most perfect virtue. Virtue, according 
to Plato, might be considered as a sort of science ; and 
no man, he thought, could see clearly what was right 
and wrong, and not act accordingly. Aristotle, on the 
contrary, was of opinion, that no conviction of the 
understanding could get the better of inveterate habits ; 
and that good morals arose not from knowledge, but 
from action. 

Next comes the Stoic sect, whose founder was Zeno.* 
Zeno was born at Cyprus, and was the son of a mer- 
chant, who, having frequent occasion in his mercantile 
capacity to visit Athens, bought for his son several of 
the writings of the most eminent Socratic philosophers. 
These he read with great avidity, and from their perusal 
laid the foundation of his philosophical fame. In the 
course of his mercantile pursuits he freighted a ship for 
Athens, with a very valuable cargo of Phoenician purple, 
which he completely lost by shipwreck on the coast, near 
the Piraeus. A very acute man, who found himself in a 
state of sudden and complete poverty at Athens, would 
naturally enough think of turning philosopher, both as by 
its doctrines it inspired him with some consolation for 
the loss of his Phoenician purple, and by its profits 

* According to Zeno, the founder of the Stoical doctrine, every animal 
was by nature recommended to its own care ; and was endowed with the 
principle of self-love, that it might endeavor to preserve, not only its ex- 
istence, but all the different parts of its nature, in the best and most per- 
fect state of which they were capable. — Adam Smith's Theory of Moral 
Sentiments, vol. ii. part vii. s^ot. ii. 


afforded him some chance of subsistence without it. 
After attending various masters of the Cynic school, 
which was then in high reputation, he put forth his own 
system of opinions, upon which was formed the Stoic 
school, one of the most considerable in ancient Greece. 
The opinions of the Stoics upon the intellectual part 
of our nature, were either the same as, or very nearly 
allied to, those of Plato and Aristotle ; though they were 
often disguised in very different iangnage. The accounts 
of the morality of the Stoics I shall read to you from the 
very beautiful epitome which Dr. Adam Smith has 
given of their doctrines in the second volume of his 
" Theory of Moral Sentiments" (p. 186). " The self- 
love of man embraced, if I may say so, his body and all 
its different members, his mind and all its different facul- 
ties and powers, and desired the preservation and main- 
tenance of them all in their best and most perfect condi- 
tion. Whatever tended to support this state of existence 
was, therefore, by nature pointed out to him as fit to be 
chosen ; and whatever tended to destroy it as fit to be 
rejected. Thus health, strength, agility, and ease of 
body, as well as the external conveniences which could 
promote these — wealth, power, honors, the respect and 
esteem of those we live with — were naturally pointed 
out to us as things eligible, and of which the possession 
was preferable to the want. On the other hand, sickness, 
infirmity, unwieldiness, pain of body, as well as all the 
external inconveniences which tend to occasion or bring 
on any of them — poverty, the want of authority, the 
contempt or hatred of those we live with — were, in the 
same manner, pointed out to us as things to be shunned 
and avoided. In each of those two opposite classes of 
objects, there were some which appeared to be more the 
objects either of choice or rejection than others in the 
same class. Thus, in the first class, health appeared 
evidently preferable to strength, and strength to agility ; 
reputation to power, and power to riches. And thus, 
too, in the second class, sickness was more to be avoided 
than unwieldiness of body, ignominy than poverty, and 
poverty than the loss of power. Virtue, and the pro- 
priety of conduct, consisted in choosing and rejecting all 


different objects and circumstances according as they 
were by nature rendered more or less the objects of 
choice or rejection ; in selecting always from among the 
several objects of choice presented to us that which was 
most to be chosen when we could not obtain them all ; 
in selecting, too, out of the several objects of rejection 
offered to us, that which was least to be avoided when it 
was not in our power to avoid them all. By choosing 
and rejecting with this just and accurate discernment, 
by thus bestowing upon every object the precise degree 
of attention it deserved, according to the place which it 
held in this natural scale of things, we maintained, 
according to the Stoics, that perfect rectitude of conduct 
which constituted the essence of virtue. This was 
what they called to live consistently, to live according 
to nature, and to obey those laws and directions which 
nature, or the Author of Nature, had prescribed for our 

From the philosophy of the Stoics I shall proceed to 
one of a very different complexion, the sect of Epicurus. 

Epicurus was the son of a schoolmaster and a woman 
who gained her livelihood by curing diseases by magic, 
driving away ghosts, and performing other services 
equally marvelous. The circumstance which first 
turned his attention to philosophy is said to have been, 
that, on reading the works of Hesiod, he consulted his 
master upon the meaning of the word chaos. The peda- 
gogue, unable to solve the point, instead of scourging 
him for asking too difficult a question, as is commonly 
the custom, referred him to the philosophers for an 
explanation. To the philosophers, as soon as an oppor- 
tunity offered, he had recourse for more information 
than he could gain from schoolmasters, and acquired all 
he could glean from Pamphilus a Platonist, Nausiphanes 
a Pythagorean, and Pyrrho the Skeptic. He was at 
Athens also a student, while Xenocrates taught in the 
Academy, and Theophrastus in the Lyceum. When 
Cicero therefore calls him a self-taught philosopher, we 
are not to understand by that expression that he was 
never instructed in the tenets of other masters, but that 
his system of philosophy was the result of his own reflec- 


tions, after comparing the doctrines of other sects. In 
the thirty-second year of his age, he opened a school at 
Mytilene. Not satisfied, however, with the narrow 
sphere of philosophical fame which this obscure situation 
afforded him, he repaired to Athens, purchased a pleasant 
garden, where he took up his residence and taught his 
philosophy ; — and hence his disciples were called the 
philosophers of the garden. The friendship of the 
Epicurean sect is described by Cicero, in his treatise 
" De Finibus," as unexampled in the history of human 
attachments ; and Valerius Maximus relates a memora- 
ble example of friendship between Polycrates and Hip- 
poclides, two disciples of this sect. It is impossible, 
however, to receive these accounts without some sort of 
mistrust. A set of graminivorous metaphysicians, living 
together in a garden, and employing their whole time in 
acts of benevolence toward each other, carries with it 
such an air of romance, that I am afraid it must be con- 
siderably lowered, and rendered more tasteless, before it 
can be brought down to the standard of credibility and 
the probabilities of real life. At least we may be tolera- 
bly sure, that if half a dozen metaphysicians, such as 
metaphysicians are in these modern days, were to live in 
a garden in Battersea or Kew, that their friendship 
would not be of very long duration ; and their learned 
labors would probably be interrupted by the same reasons 
which prevented Reaumur's spiders from spinning, — 
they fabricated a very beautiful and subtile thread, but, 
unfortunately, they were so extremely fond of fighting, 
that it was impossible to keep them together in the same 

There are two totally opposite accounts of the lives 
and doctrines of the Epicureans : — the one, that they 
only recommended and pursued such sort of pleasures as 
they deemed not inconsistent with that virtuous tran- 
quillity which was the chief end of their philosophy ; the 
opposite opinion goes to fix upon them the charge of 
shameless and unlimited debauchery. Unfortunately, 
all the writings of Epicurus (by far the most prolific 
writer among the Grecian philosophers) have perished, 
with the exception of a very few fragments dispersed 


among ancient authors. It is probable, however, that 
both accounts are true ; for it must be observed, that the 
philosophy of Epicurus, in its most favorable garb, con- 
tains within itself a principle of rapid corruption : it is 
precisely that which may inhabit a great and vigorous 
mind with safety, but which, dispersed abroad among all 
the medley of human minds and dispositions, would 
shoot up into rank licentiousness. 

Epicurus held that there are three instruments of 
judgment — sense, preconception, and passion. Sense, 
he was of opinion, could never be deceived ; though the 
judgment founded upon the representations of the senses 
might be either true or false. For instance, if a person 
of imperfect sight were to mistake the head of a post for 
the head of a cow, Epicurus would contend that the eye 
conveyed to the mind a notice of every ray of light that 
acted upon it in this instance, and that the mind had 
determined hastily upon the evidence presented to it. 
Every opinion he thought to be true which was attested, 
or not contradicted, by the senses. Lastly, opinions 
might be received as true, w r hich were established by 
some immediate inference from the senses : as, if I see 
any thing move, it is a plain proof there must be a 
vacuum in nature, to admit of the motion of any body 
whatever ; and the contrary opinion, that there is no 
vacuum, can not be true, because it contradicts the evi- 
dence of the senses. By preconceptions he appears to 
have meant what we denominate general ideas, which 
are formed, he contends, either by the repeated im- 
pression of the senses ; by enlarging or diminishing a 
sensation, as in the instances of a giant or of a dwarf; 
by resemblance, as of an unknown city to one which has 
been seen ; or by composition, as in the instance of a 
centaur. Preconception is necessary to enable us to 
inquire, reason, or judge of any thing. Truths not self- 
evident, are to be deduced from some manifest precon- 
ception ; or, where the relation of ideas is obscure, it is 
to be made manifest by the intermediate use of some 
acknowledged principle. 

This philosopher considered the pleasures and pains 
of the bodv to be the sole objects of desire and aversion. 


That they were always the object of desire and aversion 
he considered to be a matter of fact too notorious to 
require proof; but he contended that they were also the 
sole original object. The pains and pleasures of the 
mind, he contended, were all, in the first instance, de- 
rived from those of the body, though they afterward 
became incomparably more powerful and important, 
because the body feels but for the present moment, — the 
mind joys and grieves, by anticipation and by recollec- 
tion ; therefore to keep the mind easy was at all times 
the most important object. The virtues he thought of 
no importance for themselves, but for their consequences. 
For example, to save a guinea, when you may spend it 
agreeably, is not in itself desirable, for it is rather painful 
at the moment ; but it is important only in its conse- 
quences. To be temperate, and abstain from a particular 
food, is a virtue not agreeable while it is exercised, but 
by the consequences it produces after it is exercised. 
Thus with justice : if one boy abstain from taking away 
another boy's pie, it is not because he receives any pleas- 
ure from not taking away the pie, but because he wishes 
to avoid certain consequences which would follow the 
seizure. Such was the idea Epicurus had of virtue ; and 
before I conclude I shall offer a very few remarks on his 

In the first place, the plan of solving all the phenomena 
of the passions by the dread of bodily pain, and the love 
of bodily pleasure, is very simple and beautiful ; and I 
have no doubt that several of the passions commonly 
supposed to be original, may be proved to be put in mo- 
tion by these springs of the machine : but it will not do 
for all; — for how shall we explain compassion by it? 
I learn what pain is in another man by knowing what it 
is in myself ; but I might know this without feeling the 
pity. I might have been so constituted as to rejoice that 
another man was in agony : how can you prove that my 
own aversion to pain must necessarily make me feel for 
the pain of another ? I have a great horror of breaking 
my own leg, and I will avoid it by all means in my 
power ; but it does not necessarily follow from thence 
that I should be struck with horror because vou have 


broken yours. The reason why we do feel horror, is, 
that nature has superadded to these two principles of 
Epicurus the principle of pity ; which, unless it can be 
shown by stronger arguments to be derived from any 
other feeling, must stand as an ultimate fact in our na- 
ture. Did Epicurus mean to say that all the pleasures 
of the mind, as they were originally derived from the 
body, still kept the body in view ? and that, as we only 
began to value respect from the advantages we gained 
by it, so we only continue to regard it for the same rea- 
son ? If this be the doctrine of Epicurus, it betrays an 
extraordinary ignorance of our nature ; because we all 
know there are innumerable objects which we began to 
value for their advantages, which we learn to value for 
themselves ; and for respect, men commonly value the 
thing itself so much more than its beneficial consequences, 
that they every day are found casting away all that fame 
can give, in order to preserve fame itself. I might say a 
great deal more upon the philosophy of Epicurus ; but I 
must not forget one of his habits in philosophizing, which 
I dare say will meet with the hearty approbation of every 
body here present ; and that was, never to extend any 
single lecture to an unreasonable period : in imitation of 
which Epicurean practice, I shall conclude, and finish 
the history of moral philosophy at our next meeting. 



If the very confined plan of these Lectures would 
allow of such an extended review of the history of moral 
philosophy, the proper method of resuming the subject 
from the concluding period of the schools purely Grecian 
would be, to trace the introduction of Grecian philosophy 
into the East, from the expedition of Alexander, and the 
effects it produced upon the mythology of the oriental 
theology. The same philosophy was introduced, by the 
same conquest, into Egypt ; and the greatest encourage- 
ment given to learning and learned men by the suc- 
cessors of Alexander in that government. When the 
remains of the Pythagorean school fled from Italy into 
Egypt, an alliance took place between the Egyptian, 
Platonic, and Pythagorean systems ; and from this hete- 
rogeneous compound, philosophy and theology assumed 
a new form. 

When the philosophers, under Ptolemy Physcon, were 
driven from Egypt into Asia, upon their return the ori- 
ental philosophy was added to the mass, and the confusion 
of opinions was completed in the Eclectic sect. 

Into Rome, the Grecian philosophy was not introduced 
without considerable difficulty. For when Carneades, 
Diogenes, and Critolaus were sent to Rome on an em- 
bassy from the Athenians, and the Roman youths of 
distinction flocked together to hear the philosophers, it 
was thought necessary, after dismissing the ambassadors 
honorably, to pass a decree that no philosopher should 
reside at Rome. Soon after, however, when Scipio 


Africanus, Laelius, and Furius visited Athens in a mili- 
tary capacity, they frequented the schools of the philos- 
ophers, and became acquainted with their doctrines. 
The example of these noble Romans was soon followed 
by many others. Lucullus, who was instructed in philos- 
ophy by Antiochus the Ascalonite, erected a magnificent 
library at his house, which he opened for the use of the 
learned ; and, by that means, allured many philosophers 
of every different sect to settle at Rome. Sylla, after 
the siege of Athens, first brought to light the writings of 
Aristotle, and conveyed them to Rome. From the period 
of Lucullus and Sylla, every one of the Grecian sects 
had its patrons and followers among the Romans ; but, 
so far as I know, no original sect of philosophy ever 
sprang up among that people. 

The philosophy which, a little before the Christian 
era, emanated from the remains of the doctrine of Zoro- 
aster, had many followers in various parts of Asia. Of 
these, not a few passed over into Egypt, and contami- 
nated not only the Pagan, but the Christian and Jewish 
schools ; producing among the Jews the Cabalistic 
mysteries, and among the Christians the Gnostic heresies. 
Among the Jews, the Samaritans embraced a mixed 
system of religion, partly Jewish and partly Pagan ; and, 
adding to these certain doctrines of the oriental school, 
produced the heresy of Simon Magus. The interpreta- 
tion of the law called Cabala was brought over from 
Egypt to Palestine by Simeon Shettach. After this, 
there were learned men among the Jews who studied 
Pagan philosophy, such as Josephus the historian. Of 
the origin of the sects which existed before the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem — the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, 
and Therapeutics — we know little or nothing. 

After the destruction of Jerusalem, their learned men 
who escaped the general ruin erected schools at Jamnia, 
Tiberias, and Lydda ; and among the Jewish schools 
erected at Babylon, the Babylonian Talmud was com- 
piled. The traditionary mystical wisdom, so called by 
special indulgence, was studied by the learned Jews till 
near the tenth century. At this time, the Jews perse- 
cuted by the Saracens, fled into Spain ; where they paid 


considerable attention to Pagan learning, and translated 
among other things, the writings of Aristotle, from the 
Arabic into the Hebrew language. 

When Mohammed first appeared among the Arabians, 
philosophy could hardly be said to exist among them. 
At the beginning of the dynasty of the Abbassides they 
first began to show a disposition for science ; and under 
Al Mammon, in the ninth century, learning and philos- 
ophy of every kind flourished among them. These were 
greatly aided by the numerous Christian libraries which 
fell into their possession. Public schools were instituted 
and long flourished at Bagdad, Bassora, and Bochara ; 
and, as the empire of the Saracens extended over the 
West, they carried with them their zeal for the promotion 
of knowledge. 

The dark ages of Europe may be divided into four 
periods — from Alcuin, w T ho was the cause of the renewal 
of public instruction ; 2dly, the period of Roscelin, who 
gave rise to the celebrated controversy between the 
Nominalists and Realists. The third period, in which 
Aristotelian metaphysics, obscured by passing through 
the Arabian channel, were applied, with wonderful sub- 
tilty, to the elucidation of Christianity, begins with Albert 
and ends with Durand. The fourth period is the arrival 
of the learned Greeks who w r ere expelled from Constan- 
tinople. This w T as the period in which the Genius of 
Science rose up from the dust and ashes, and, mindful 
of his past glory, began to resume his ancient dominion 
over the human mind. 

" Behold ! eacli Muse, in Leo's golden days, 
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays. 
.Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread, 
Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head. 
With sweeter notes each rising temple rung ; 
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung." 

The first great name after this period of the restoration 
of learning was that of Lord Bacon ; to whom, however, 
we are more indebted for the opportunity of applying 
those rules of philosophizing which he laid down for the 
pursuit of physical science, than for any thing he did 
directly for morals. It is supposed that Descartes nevei 


read any of Bacon's writings ; though there is good 
reason to believe that we are indebted to them for the 
original idea of Grotius's work on natural law, which he 
afterward carried into execution at the earnest solicita- 
tion of the famous Nicholas Paresi. " We must consider 
Grotius," says Barbeyrac (in his preface to PufFendorf), 
"we must consider Grotius as the first who broke the 
ice : nor can we, without the blackest envy, or the 
grossest ignorance, deny to him an extraordinary clear- 
ness of understanding, exquisite discernment, profound 
meditation, universal erudition, a prodigious extent of 
reading, a sincere love of truth, and a laborious applica- 
tion to study, among various interruptions, and the vast 
variety of duties imposed upon him by situations of the 
highest trust and importance.'/ 

" The wonder of Grotius," says Barbeyrac, " is, that 
his good sense has been able, in so astonishing a manner, 
to remedy the darkness and deficiencies of his times ;" 
and this is certainly the real and proper defense of, and 
the just style of criticism for, every writer. 

Two very eminent men, Mr. Hume and Mr. Home 
Tooke, have spoken with a great spirit of depreciation, 
and even of contempt, of John Locke. I confess there 
is a sort of ingratitude of science in this, which it is very 
difficult to bear with patience. It is truly painful to see 
the great teachers of mankind insulted and disdained by 
those, whose very talents and sagacity have been fostered 
by their labors. It would be as uncandid and as unjust 
that those who are now cultivating the earth with so 
much skill and science, should sneer at the coarse but 
necessary labors of their ancestors, who cleared the im- 
penetrable woods, drained the stagnant marshes, banked 
out the encroachments of the sea, and, by the sweat and 
the struggles of industry, left the earth ready for the re- 
finements of science. To whatever height we may carry 
all human knowledge, I hope we shall never forget those 
energetic and enterprising men who met the difficulty in 
its rudest shape. That Grotius will never be forgotten, 
as thef ***** 

f [The conclusion of this sentence has been on the outside cover of the 
MS. book, and torn off] 


After this period, the schools of Moral Philosophy may 
be divided into those of Locke, Descartes, and Leibnitz, 
originating in England, France, and Germany. 

Descartes was, at an early period of life, so disgusted 
with the uncertainty which appeared to him to hang 
over every science which he attempted to cultivate, that 
he quitted a life of study altogether, and turned soldier 
and man of pleasure. So strong, however, is the original 
bent and direction of men's minds, that the first instance 
of his prowess recorded in the Dutch army is, an attack 
upon an eminent mathematician at Breda, for some 
erroneous doctrines which Descartes conceived him to 
entertain respecting that science. From the Dutch ser- 
vice, Descartes entered into the Bavarian army ; and 
there, instead of attending to any subjects connected 
with his profession, be busied himself in endeavoring to 
comprehend the Rosicrucian mysteries. At last, Des- 
cartes quitted the military profession, retired to Holland, 
and published there his system of philosophy, which soon 
engaged the attention of learned men in every quarter 
of Europe. In this country the Cartesian system ob- 
tained such a degree of credit, that Sir Charles Caven- 
dish, brother to the Duke of Newcastle, gave him an 
invitation to settle here ; and Charles the First gave him 
reason to expect a very liberal appointment. Descartes 
would certainly have accepted the offer if the civil wars 
had not immediately afterward banished all considera- 
tion for learning and learned men. He afterward 
accepted an invitation from Christina, Queen of Sweden, 
and, in four months after his arrival, fell a sacrifice to 
the rigor of the climate. 

The account of Descartes's philosophy I shall read to 
you from Dr. Reid's " Intellectual Powers,"* where it is 
stated with admirable precision, and commented on with 
great good sense. " Descartes, about the middle of the 
last century, dissatisfied with the materia prima, the 
substantial forms, and the occult qualities of the Peripa- 
tetics, conjectured boldly that the heavenly bodies of 
our system are carried round by a vortex or whirlpool 
of subtile matter, just as straws and chaff are carried 
*» Vol. i p. 147. 


round in a tub of water. He conjectured, that the soul 
is seated in a small gland in the brain, called the pineal 
gland: that there, as in her chamber of presence, she 
receives intelligence of every thing that affects the 
senses, by means of a subtile fluid contained in the nerves, 
called the animal spirits ; and that she dispatches these 
animal spirits, as her messengers, to put in motion the 
several muscles of the body, as there is occasion. By 
such conjectures as these, Descartes could account for 
every phenomenon in nature, in such a plausible manner, 
as gave satisfaction to a great part of the learned world 
for more than half a century. 

" Such conjectures in philosophical matters have com- 
monly got the name of hypotheses or theories ; and the 
invention of an hypothesis, founded on some slight 
probabilities, which accounts for many appearances in 
nature, has been considered as the highest attainment 
of a philosopher. If the hypothesis hang well together, 
is embellished by a lively imagination, and serve to 
account for common appearances, it is considered by 
many as having all the qualities that should recommend 
it to our belief, and all that ought to be required in a 
philosophical system. 

" There is such proneness in men of genius to invent 
hypotheses, and in others to acquiesce in them as the 
utmost which the human faculties can attain in philoso- 
phy, that it is of the last consequence to the progress of 
real knowledge, that men should have a clear and distinct 
understanding of the nature of hypotheses in philosophy, 
and of the regard that is due to them. , 

" Although some conjectures may have a considerable 
degree of probability, yet it is evidently in the nature of 
conjecture to be uncertain. In every case, the assent 
ought to be proportioned to the evidence ; for to believe 
firmly what has but a small degree of probability, is a 
manifest abuse of our understanding. Now, though we 
may, in many cases, form very probable conjectures 
concerning the works of men, every conjecture we can 
form with regard to the works of God, has as little 
probability as the conjectures of a child with regard to 
the works of a man." 


The merits of Descartes are briefly these : — that he 
revolted against the Aristotelian tyranny, and overthrew 
it ; that he was the first philosopher who drew a fixed 
and definite line between matter and spirit; that he was 
the first philosopher who taught mankind that the only 
source of this sort of knowledge was an accurate con- 
templation of the human mind. Malebranche, Locke, 
Berkeley, were all taught this lesson by Descartes ; he, 
as well as Lord Bacon, laid this foundation, and led us 
into that tract which all wise men now allow to be the 
only one in which we can expect success. 

The most illustrious of his disciples were Bossuet, 
Fenelon, and Malebranche ; and the extraordinary sys- 
tem of Spinosa has, I fancy, some connection with 
Cartesianism. Malebranche was clearly the forerunner 
of Berkeley : so much so, indeed, that there is not a 
single argument of the bishop's but what may be found 
stated with equal force in Malebranche. His system 
briefly was, that there is no material world, and that all 
our ideas of a material world we gain from the intimate 
presence of the Deity in our own minds. The system 
of Malebranche was adopted by an English clergyman of 
the name of Norris, in an essay which he calls the 
" Theory of the Intellectual World," and which he pub- 
lished in 2 vols., in the year 1701. 

In England, the Cartesian philosophy, though his 
name was held in high estimation, never took any root : 
in fact, the English, for the first half-century of the 
Cartesian philosophy, were so occupied with civil war, 
hypocrisy, and profligacy, that they had no leisure to 
attend to systems of philosophy. In France, its native 
country, the Cartesian moral philosophy has entirely 
yielded to the philosophy of Locke ; and his natural 
philosophy to that of Newton : and Germany is at pres- 
ent entirely divided between the old schools of Wolfe 
and Leibnitz, and the modern system of the celebrated 
Professor Kant. 

M. Degerando, in the true French style, endeavors to 
show that Locke was preceded in many of his discoveries 
by Gassendi, a Frenchman, whose philosophy was made 
known to this countrv by Walter Charleton, thirty-six 


years before the first publication of Locke's Essay. I 
am wholly incapable of answering this charge, as I am 
entirely ignorant of Gassendi's writings ; but I should 
strongly suspect, from the simplicity and honesty of Mr. 
Locke's character, he would not have borrowed from 
any other writer any material part of his doctrines, 
without the most scrupulous avowal of the source from 
whence it was derived. 

Locke agreed with Descartes in thinking that we 
perceive by means of some intermediate agent between 
the object and the mind ; he disagreed with him as to 
the origin of our ideas, — Descartes being of opinion that 
some were innate, and Locke conceiving that they were 
all derived either from our senses or from the power we 
possess of reflecting on the operations of our understand- 
ings. They differed with regard to the essence of 
matter and mind. Descartes believed that the essence 
of mind consisted in thought, and had a very singular 
idea that the essence of matter consisted in extension. 
Locke very properly determined that the word essence 
has no meaning ; and that we know nothing about the 
essence of either one or the other, and never can know 
any thing at all about essences. 

With respect to innate ideas, it has been objected to 
Mr. Locke that he has not sufficiently explained the 
meaning of the word. Does he mean connate ideas, 
that develop themselves as soon as we are born ? if so, 
the dispute is quite insignificant. If Mr. Locke mean by 
the word idea (as I believe he may be shown to do) any 
impression or passion of our nature, does it not seem 
very strange to deny that self-love, anger, and pity are 
innate, though some of these do not develop themselves 
at the immediate period of our birth ? In his account 
of the formation of abstract general ideas, Mr. Locke 
has been, as is generally thought, completely confuted by 
Bishop Berkeley ; in that notion which he held, in 
common with all his predecessors, of an intermediate 
agent between the mind and the outer world, he has 
been refuted by Dr. Reid. His book upon the Use and 
Abuse of Language is generally considered as one of the 
most valuable in his Essay. The wonder is, that so few 



important errors should be discovered in a work which 
takes up the science of the human mind at so barbarous 
a period, and which has stood for a century the critical 
inquisition of the ablest men in the keenest and most 
inquisitive of all the branches of knowledge. 

One of the most extraordinary men who appeared after 
Locke was Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland ; of 
whom Pope says, that there was given 

" To Berkeley every virtue under Heaven ;" 

and of whom Bishop Atterbury said, that, "before he 
saw that gentleman, he did not think that so much un- 
derstanding, so much knowledge, so much innocence, 
and so much humility, had been the portion of any but 
angels." To give a clear notion of the bishop's theory, 
we must, for a moment, advert to Mr. Locke's doctrines 
on the same subject. He thought, for instance, that 
there were outward objects ; some intermediate agents 
coming from that outward agent, which excited the idea 
in the mind : and, lastly, that there was the mind itself. 
For instance, that there was a moon, an image coming 
from the moon, an idea excited by that image, and a mind 
in which that image existed. Now, says Bishop Berkeley, 
you allow that you do not see the objects themselves, but 
only certain representatives of those objects ; therefore, 
as you never see the objects themselves, what proof have 
you of their existence ? You have none ; and all your 
notions on these subjects are fallacious. There is no 
sun, no moon, no stars, nor earth, nor sea, — they are all 
notions of the mind. Such was the system of one of the 
most pious men that ever lived ; and a system by which 
he hoped to put an end forever to all skepticism and 

In this sketch the name of Arthur Collier must not be 
omitted. He was Rector of Langford Magna, near Sal- 
isbury, and published a book, in 1713, which he calls 
" The Universal Key, or a New Inquiry after Truth ; 
being a Demonstration of the Non-existence or Impossi- 
bility of an External World." He is a very acute man, 
but a very bad writer ; and, what is singular enough, he 
had never read Berkeley's theory (which had then been 


published three years), or Locke's Essay (which had been 
published twenty-four years). That two writers, Berke- 
ley and Collier, should meet together at such a con- 
clusion, without the smallest knowledge of each other's 
intentions, is certainly a very extraordinary fact in the 
history of philosophy. 

The outward world being thus annihilated, Mr. Hume 
determined to cure men of the absurdity of supposing 
they had any minds ; and turned the same sort of argu- 
ment to their destruction. As thought is only a repre- 
sentative of mind, and as you never see the original, how 
do you know there is any original ? And so, in this 
manner, the rash and extraordinary hypothesis, that man 
is a being made up of body and mind, was detected, ex- 
posed, and ridiculed. 

In answer to these metaphysical lunacies, Dr. Reid 
has contended, that, for all reasoning, there must be some 
first principles from whence such reasoning originates, 
and which must necessarily be incapable of proof or 
they would not be first principles ; and that facts so 
irresistibly ingrafted upon human belief as the existence 
of mind and matter, must be assumed for truths, and 
reasoned upon as such. All that these skeptics have said 
of the outer and the inner world may, with equal justice, 
be applied to every other radical truth. Who can prove 
his own personal identity ? A man may think him- 
self a clergyman, and believe he has preached for these 
ten years last past; but I defy him to offer any sort 
of proof that he has not been a fishmonger all the 
time.f #*#### 

ever doubt that all reasoning must end in arbitrary be- 
lief; — that we must, at last, come to that point where the 
only reply can be, " / am so, — this belief is the constitu- 
tion of my nature, — God willed it." I grant that this 
reasoning is a ready asylum for ignorance and imbecility, 
and that it affords too easy a relief from the pain of ren- 
dering a reason : but the most unwearied vigor of human 
talents must at last end there ; the wisdom of ages can 

f [Two pages of manuscript are here wanting.] 


get no further ; here, after all, the porch, the garden, the 
Academy, the Lyceum, must close their labors. 

Much as we are indebted to Dr. Reid for preaching 
up this doctrine, he has certainly executed it very badly ; 
and nothing can be more imperfect than the table of first 
principles which he has given us, — an enumeration of 
which is still a desideratum of the highest importance. 
The skeptics may then call the philosophy of the human 
mind merely hypothetical ; but if it be so, all other 
knowledge must of course be hypothetical also ; and if it 
be so, and all is erroneous, it will do quite as well as re- 
ality, if we keep up a certain proportion in our errors : 
for there may be no such things as lunar tables, no sea, 
and no ships ; but, by falling into one of these errors after 
the other, we avoid shipwreck, or, what is the same thing, 
as it gives the same pain, the idea of shipwreck. So 
with the philosophy of the human mind : I may have no 
memory, and no imagination, — they may be mistakes ; 
but if I cultivate them both, I derive honor and respect 
from my fellow-creatures, which may be mistakes also ; 
but they harmonize so well together, that they are quite 
as good as realities. The only evil of errors is, that they 
are never supported by consequences ; if they were, they 
would be as good as realities. Great merit is given to 
Dr. Reid for his destruction of what is called the ideal 
system, but I confess I can not see the important conse- 
quences to which it has yet led. 

Oswald, Beattie, and a few more Scotch writers, who 
are very little known or read, have supported that appeal 
to the common sense of mankind in favor of first prin- 
ciples which, in my very humble opinion, was so wisely 
and philosophically instituted by Dr. Reid, and which 
hereafter promises to rear up the strongest bulwark 
against the skeptical school. 

About the year 1730, the Rev. Mr. Gay published a 
dissertation on the fundamental principle of virtue. It 
was not published in a separate form, but prefixed to 
Archdeacon Law's translation of Archbishop King's 
" Origin of Evil." In this dissertation Mr. Gay asserted 
the possibility, and explained the mode, of deducing all 
our intellectual pleasures and pains, from the principle 


of association. It was this publication of Mr. Gay which 
first induced Dr. Hartley to turn his thoughts to the sub- 
ject ; and the result of his studies, was a conviction that 
not only all our intellectual pleasures and pains, but that 
all the phenomena of memory, imagination, volition, and 
reasoning, may be referred to this principle : so that 
nothing more is requisite to make a man what he is, but 
a sentient principle, with this single property, and the in- 
fluence of such circumstances as he has been actually 
exposed to. As Dr. Hartley was excited to this part of 
his system by Mr. Gay's dissertation, he was led to the 
next and more reprehensible part of it by a query of Sir 
Isaac Newton's, at the end of his Optics." " Do not the 
rays of light," says Sir Isaac, " in falling upon the bottom 
of the eye, excite vibrations in the tunica retinae ? and 
do not these vibrations, propagated along the solid fibers 
of the optic nerves into the brain, cause the sense of see- 
ing ?" This was enough for Dr. Hartley's system, which 
contends that the mind receives its notices of things by 
means of a vibration excited in the nerve and brain. 
When the excitement is considerable, he calls it a vibra- 
tion ; when less, it is a vibratiuncle. I need not add, 
that all this is a mere hypothesis, without a shadow of 
proof; and that if it were true it would leave the con- 
nection between body and mind just as unintelligible as 
it was before. This part, however, of Dr. Hartley's sys- 
tem has nothing to do with the other, and if it were en- 
tirely brushed away would leave his doctrines of associa- 
tion untouched. These doctrines have certainly made 
no great fortune on the Continent ; and none in Scot- 
land, where every man is a metaphysician. Their most 
able defender here has been Dr. Priestley, who has left 
out Hartley's vibrations, ameliorated his language, and 
(to use an expression which will be very well understood 
at the Royal Institution) has completely " Riwifordized" 
his system. I have read his book, and, in spite of the 
disgust which the style excites even in this renovated 
state, it appeared to me impossible not to allow that the 
principle of association is a much more extensive key to 
the great phenomena of our nature than any previous 
writer had considered it to be. At the same time (I say 


it with deference) I could not help thinking that he fail- 
ed considerably in the universal and systematic applica- 
tion of this principle ; and that the entire building he 
wished to display to the eye was erected with great in- 
equalities in strength and skill. I shall barely mention 
the names of Price and Priestley, without offering any 
comment upon their writings ; and having so done, I be- 
lieve I have nearly completed the list of all the very con- 
siderable writers who have appeared since the time of 
Locke in this country. 

May I be allowed to add to this splendid list the names 
of two gentlemen now living, — to one of whom the world 
may fairly look for no common improvement of this sci- 
ence, and from the other of whom it has already received 
it : I mean Sir James Mackintosh and Mr. Dugald 
Stewart. In my expectations from the first of these 
gentlemen, those will not think I am too sanguine who 
have witnessed the circumference, the order, and the 
connection of his knowledge, his zeal in prosecuting it, 
his perspicuity in detailing it, and that extraordinary 
mixture of enterprise and judgment which makes him as 
new and original as he is judicious and safe. Of the 
latter gentleman, if I am not misled by the suavity of his 
manners, the spotless integrity of his life, and the mar- 
velous effects of that eloquence to which many others 
here can bear witness as well as myself, — if all these 
circumstances do not mislead me, I think I may say that 
never any man has taken up this science of the human 
mind with such striking and comprehensive views of 
man's nature. You begin with thinking you are taking 
up a curious, yet barren, speculation ; and you find it, 
under the masterly hand of this writer, gradually unfold- 
ing itself into a wide survey of passions, motives, and 
faculties, made in chaste language, watched over with 
correct taste, and adorned with beautiful illustrations. 
He is ever drawing from those discussions which, in the 
hands of common men, are mere scholastic subtilties, 
principles useful in the conduct of life, and valuable for 
the improvement of the understanding. He is the first 
writer who ever carried a feeling heart and a creative 
fancy into the depth of these abstract sciences, without 


rendering them a mass of declamatory confusion. He 
has not rendered his metaphysics dry and disgusting, 
like Reid ; he has not involved them in lofty obscurity, 
like Plato ; nor has he poisoned them with impiety, like 
Hume. Above all, he has that invaluable talent of in- 
spiring the young with the love of knowledge, the love 
of virtue, and that feeling of modest independence which 
has ever been the ornament of his conduct. I have been 
his pupil, and have received kindness at his hands. Per- 
haps I am overrating his merit ; but I am truly sincere 
when I say, that I know no reason why he is not ranked 
among the first writers of the English language, except 
that he is still alive ; and my most earnest and hearty 
wish is, that that cause of his depreciation may operate 
for many, many years to come ! 

I ought, in point of time, to have mentioned Hobbes 
before ; but as I could not connect him with the school 
of Locke, I was forced to put him out of his proper place. 
Hobbes lived in the reign of Charles the First, and was, 
at one period of his life, very much connected with Des- 
cartes. He offered to that philosopher some comments 
on one of his publications, which Descartes treated with 
great contempt; and they separated. Though he in- 
curred the contempt of Descartes, he excited the aston- 
ishment of Leibnitz by his profundity, who always used 
to speak of him as one of the deepest thinkers that ever 
existed. For the origin of our ideas he referred entirely 
to sensation ; and divided all human faculties into con- 
ception and imagination. Thinking, according to Hobbes, 
is the succession of one imagination after another, — 
which may be either irregular, or regulated with a view 
to some end. Truth and falsehood are attributes, not of 
things, but of language. The intellect, peculiar to man, 
is a faculty arising from speech ; and the use of reason 
is the deduction of remote consequences from the defini- 
tions of terms. Science is the knowledge of these con- 

There are in animals two kinds of motion, one vital 
and involuntary, the other animal and voluntary. The 
latter, if it tend toward an object, is appetite ; if it re- 
cede from it, is aversion : and the object in the former 


case is said to be good ; in the latter, evil Appetite is 
attended with pleasure, aversion with pain. In delibera- 
tion, the last impulse is will; success in obtaining its 
object, enjoyment. His notion of virtue was, that the 
law of the civil magistrate was the sole standard of right 
and wrong; that there was no natural distinction be- 
tween them antecedent to the institution of positive law. 
This last part of his system was answered and refuted 
by Dr. Cud worth, in his "Immutable Morality." Hobbes, 
though a man of the highest order of faculties, is a most 
pernicious and paradoxical writer upon almost all sub- 
jects. As a mathematician he is generally accused of 
ignorance ; his morality is subversive of all morals, as 
his policy is of all free government. His works pro- 
duced, at the time, the most prodigious effect ; they are 
now read by a few speculative men, and he is entirely 
passed away from common notice, — as every writer always 
will pass away, whatever be his talents, who thinks him- 
self mightier than nature, and would expunge from the 
hearts of men their primordial and irresistible feelings. 

Having said all I have to say of English moral philos- 
ophers, it may not be unacceptable to give some short 
account of the progress of Mr. Locke's doctrine in 
France. Pere Buffier, after Gassendi (whom I have 
already mentioned), was the first person in France who 
developed any philosophical views analogous to those of 
Mr. Locke. He was the first person who attempted an 
enumeration of first principles to serve as a basis for all 
moral reasoning ; but though he has the merit of being 
the first to enforce this method of philosophizing, he has, 
in the execution of it, been still more unfortunate than 
his disciple Dr. Reid, and has multiplied his catalogue of 
fundamental truths beyond all bounds of good sense and 
discretion. The Essay upon Abstraction by Dumarsais, 
is an admirable abridgment of Locke's Essay. The 
reputation of Locke was very w 7 idely disseminated by 
Voltaire. Vauvenargues, whose maxims are so little 
read in this country, appears to have studied him ; but 
Condillac is the person who has almost naturalized 
Locke in France. He has expanded and exemplified 
Locke's doctrines of sensation. Locke only perceived 


a very little chapter of the law of association, and treated 
it as a mere disease of the mind ; Condillac has shown 
its effects upon the entire system of our knowledge. 
Locke showed that language registers our ideas ; Con- 
dillac points out to us that it analyzes them, and is an 
indispensable instrument in reasoning. In short, we 
must unquestionably consider Condillac as the most 
valuable disciple and commentator that Locke has yet 
had. The effect of his book in disseminating the philos- 
ophy of Locke among the French, has been prodigious. 
D'Alembert undoubtedly, in his intellectual philosophy, 
is a pupil of the Locke school ; and to his name may be 
added those of Condorcet, Charles Bonnet, and Dege- 
rando, — who wrote his Essay upon Natural Signs, when 
a common soldier in the army of General Moreau. 

Germany had principally received its tone of moral 
philosophy from Leibnitz and Wolfe, before this last 
revolution effected by Professor Kant. Perhaps no man 
that ever lived combined in so eminent a degree as 
Leibnitz, the faculty of invention with the habit of labor. 
His theories abound with boldness and originality, as 
any one who has cast a glance upon them may easily 
perceive ; and he had acquired more knowledge, taking 
it in extent and accuracy, than any man, perhaps, that 
ever existed. His habits of labor were so intense, that 
he sometimes was known to sit in his study for forty- 
eight hours together; and for whole months confined 
himself to his books, without any other interruptions 
than those which hunger and sleep rendered absolutely 
necessary. His system was, that Nature, in granting 
organs to animals, had made them capable of distinct 
perception, memory, and imagination. Man is distin- 
guished from inferior animals by the power of knowing 
necessary and eternal truths : it is from this power, that 
we are capable of those reflex acts by which we are con- 
scious of our own existence, and form the ideas of being, 
substance, and God. Our reasonings are raised upon 
two great principles : the one, that of consistency, by 
means of which we judge that to be false which involves 
a contradiction, and that to be true which is the reverse 
of the false ; the second, is that of sufficient reason, which 


admits nothing to exist without a sufficient reason for its 
existence, though that reason may not be known to us. 
In the united state of soul and body, each follows its 
own laws; but they agree together by means of & pre- 
established harmony between all substances, which 
renders each a representation of the universe. The 
soul, he says, acts according to the law of final causes, 
or by motives ; the body, according to efficient causes, 
or by motion : and between these two kingdoms of 
nature there is a harmony, originally established, and 
continually preserved, by the power of God. Such is a 
very summary view of the theory of the great Leibnitz, 
whom both Locke and Molyneux evidently consider as 
a very overrated man, and whose system Voltaire calls 
" line bonne plaisanterie." 

To Leibnitz, and his successor Wolfe, succeeded an 
endless list of German metaphysicians, whose systems I 
am so far from being acquainted with, that I am too 
ignorant to pronounce their authors' names — Baum- 
garten, Meyer, Crousaz, Plouquet, Mendelsohn (the an- 
tagonist of Hume), and Eberhard, Platner, and names 
without any vowels or any end. 

This superb list is terminated by Professor Kant, the 
explanation of whose philosophy I really can not attempt : 
first, from some very faint doubts whether it is explica- 
ble ; next, from a pretty strong conviction that this good 
company would not be much pleased to sit for another 
half-hour and hear me commenting on his twelve cate- 
gories ; his distinctions between empirical, rational, and 
transcendental philosophy ; his absolute unity, absolute 
totality, and absolute causation ; his four reflective con- 
ceptions, his objective nonmenal reality, his subjective 
elements, and his pure cognition. I am very far from 
saying that these terms are without their share of relish 
and allurement ; I must only decline, myself, the inter- 
pretation of them, and refer those whose curiosity they 
may excite, to the exposition of Villiers and Degerando, 
in their lately-published history of philosophy. 

I can not conclude this lecture without remarking the 
high destiny and splendid fortune of this country, in 
giving to the world its great masters of philosophy. We 


will allow to other countries the most splendid efforts of 
genius directed to this object ; but they have passed away, 
and are now no more than beautiful and stupendous 
errors. We will give up to them the mastery in all that 
class of men who can diffuse over bad and unsocial 
principles, the charms of eloquence and wit; but the 
great teachers of mankind, big with better hopes than 
their own days could supply, — who have looked back- 
ward to the errors, and forward to the progress of man- 
kind, — who have searched for knowledge only from 
experience, and applied it only to the promotion of 
human happiness, — who have disdained paradox and 
impiety, and coveted no other fame than that which was 
founded upon the modest investigation of truth, — such 
men have sprung from this country, and have shed upon 
it the everlasting luster of their names. Descartes has 
perished, Leibnitz is fading away; but Bacon, and 
Locke, and Newton remain, as the Danube and the 
Alps remain : — the learned examine them, and the igno- 
rant, who forget lesser streams and humbler hills, remem- 
ber them as the glories and prominences of the world. 
And let us never, in thinking of perpetuity and duration, 
confine that notion to the physical works of nature, and 
forget the eternity of fame ! God has shown his power 
in the stars and the firmament, in the aged hills and in 
the perpetual streams ; but he has shown it as much, in 
the minds of the greatest of human beings ! Homer and 
Virgil and Milton, and Locke and Bacon and Newton, 
are as great as the hills and the streams ; and will endure 
till heaven and earth shall pass away, and the whole 
fabric of nature is shaken into dissolution and eternal 



I promised, in the beginning of these lectures, to be 
very dull and unamusing ; and I am of opinion that I 
have hitherto acted up to the spirit of my contract ; but 
if there should perchance exist in any man's mind the 
slightest suspicion of my good faith, I think this day's 
lecture will entirely remove that suspicion, and that I 
shall turn out to be a man of unsullied veracity ! 

A list of great and splendid names, such as I gave in 
my last lecture, of itself was some obstacle to the com- 
pletion of my promise. I have no doubt, however, but 
that I overcame that obstacle with sufficient success; 
and, of course, that aided as I am by the subject to-day, 
it will be still more perfect, and my fortune more com- 
plete. It is some encouragement to me, however, in the 
execution of my plan, to perceive the extreme patience 
with which subjects are listened to, upon other occasions, 
which in their nature are not capable of eloquence, and 
in which all ornament would be impertinent and mis- 
placed. I think I have observed, that the ornaments 
called for here are established facts and fair reasonings ; 
and that the object for which both sexes pass an hour in 
this place is, to hear the investigation of some important 
subject, made with some care, and conducted without 
any pretense. Without offering, therefore, any other 
apology in future, for the dryness and barrenness of 
the subject, but trusting to the candor and good sense 
of those who hear me, I shall at once proceed upon my 


Every one knows that the senses are five number, 
Smell, Taste, Hearing, Feeling, and Seeing. The nostril, 
the eye, and the ear, are affected by objects at a distance 
through the instrumentality of light, air, or the thin 
element which emanates from odorous bodies. The 
senses of taste and feeling are commonly, if not always, 
affected by actual contact with the bodies themselves. 

In the dissection of the human body, there are found 
thin, white, minute filaments penetrating every part of it 
in every direction. Every one of these, let its ramifica- 
tions be ever so extensive, can at last be distinctly 
traced either to the brain, or to the spinal marrow, which 
proceeds immediately from the brain, and is of course 
connected with it. The use of these nerves is, to convey 
notions or ideas from exterior objects to the brain ; and 
if this communication between the various parts of the 
body and the brain be intercepted by any injury done to 
the nerve which keeps up the communication, no intelli- 
gence can reach the understanding from that part of the 
body. For instance, at present I feel perfectly well 
with my hand ; but if the great nerve that runs down 
my arm were divided, J should have no sort of feeling in 
that part of my arm below which the separation took 
place. I might pierce my hand with a knife, or burn it 
with fire, without having the smallest sense of pain, or 
being in the least degree conscious that my hand was 
even touched. In the same manner, if the spinal marrow 
be injured, all the parts of the body whose nerves fall 
into that great channel of intelligence below the part 
injured become absolutely devoid of all feeling ; and 
though in this case the lower extremities do not mortify, 
they are dead branches, without the privilege of sensi- 
bility, or the enjoyment of any of the functions of their 
healthy condition ; and as the extremities can not con- 
vey, in the case of an injured nerve, any intelligence to 
the understanding, it can not exercise any sort of power 
over the diseased limb. For when my arm (to put the 
case I before cited) is injured, and can not feel, it can 
not obey the will ; for, however I may wish to move it, 
its motion is utterly impossible. Therefore a nerve not 
only conveys the knowledge of outward objects to the 


mind, but it conveys the decisions of the will to the 
various parts of the body. In short, to use a very trite 
and obvious simile, the brain is the metropolis, the nerves 
are paths and roads to it from every part of the animal 
frame, the greatest of which is the spinal marrow, 
absorbing a vast number of lesser communications before 
it is terminated in the grand emporium of thought. To 
carry on this threadbare simile a little further, we may 
say, that the information thus brought to the brain, is 
rapid and telegraphic beyond all conception ; the obedi- 
ence rendered to its commands, dispersed over the body, 
instant and profound ; and the effects of a very short 
interruption of correspondence so fatal, that the impor- 
tance of the region thus separated is forever destroyed. 

Now, then, this is a short history of the connection 
between mind and body. We know that the notion 
must enter by one of the senses, we know it must be 
conveyed by a nerve to the brain, and there our knowl- 
edge ends ! All beyond this is mere fiction and hy- 
pothesis. Whether there be a fluid passing through the 
nerve, as was long supposed, — whether the nerve excite 
vibrations and vibratiuncles in the brain, as Newton 
queried, and Hartley thought, — whether the pineal gland 
be the seat of the soul, according to Descartes ; or 
whether it lodge in the oval center of the brain, accord- 
ing to Vieussens ; or whether, as Willis contends, 
common sense is lodged in the corpora striata, and 
imagination in the corpus callosum, — all these are the 
opinions of rash or ingenious men, without any founda- 
tion. What additions may hereafter be made to these 
discoveries it is impossible to say, but at present our 
knowledge is stopped exactly where I have stated. We 
know the entrance, the path, and the place of destina- 
tion ; the mode of proceeding, and the effects after it has 
reached its goal, we do not know. 

There are two common errors respecting our sensa- 
tions which those who have been in any degree accus- 
tomed to these sorts of speculations will hardly remem- 
ber, and those who have not, will find, perhaps, some 
trifling difficulty in correcting, — I mean, the reference 
of our sensations to the objects which cause them, and 


to the senses which convey them. I say that I feel with 
my hand, and that I see with my eye ; but what are 
seeing and feeling ? They are affections of the mind, 
not of the body. My eye conveys to me the notion that 
this paper is white, and my hand is an instrument to 
inform me this table is hard ; but the notions themselves 
exist only in my mind, and can not exist in my eye or my 
hand, which are mere brute matter, and quite incapable 
of intelligence. There are many things which we can 
only see through a microscope, but it would be very 
absurd to suppose that the microscope sees ; — put away 
the microscope, and it is just as absurd to suppose the 
eye sees. The eye is a mere machine, like the other, to 
convey knowledge to the mind ; the only difference is, 
when we use a microscope we use two optical machines, 
when we use the eye alone we employ only one. If we 
suppose the thought itself to exist in the mere instrument 
of thinking, we must, in the case of feeling, suppose 
mind to be spread over all the body. There is a mind 
in each foot and in every finger, and we kneel upon 
mind and sit down upon it ; and the old proverb, " many 
men, many minds," may with equal propriety be asserted 
of a single individual. The second popular mistake 
which I specified is, that of attributing our own sensa- 
tions to the bodies which occasion them. If I speak of 
the smell of a rose, I mean that that flower affects my 
mind through the organs of smelling in that particular 
manner ; — the smell is not in the rose, it is in my mind ; 
there is an unknown cause in the rose which excites this 
feeling of the mind called smell. There is an organ 
through which that effect is produced ; but the effect 
itself is in my mind. Just so, the color is not in the 
table, for the word color means nothing more than an 
affection of my mind ; but there is an unknown cause in 
this wood which produces that effect upon my mind 
through the medium of my eye. And, in general, we 
must always carry it in our recollection, that in speaking 
of sensation, we are speaking of what exists in our 
minds ; and that when we refer these to the objects by 
which, or the instruments through which, they are 


excited, it is a mere fashion of speaking, and not an 
accurate statement of the fact. 

I decline to discuss the question of the difference 
between the primary and secondary qualities of bodies ; 
and I assume, with Dr. Reid, the existence of matter as 
a first principle not proved by reason, and not provable 
by reason. 

Almost all the senses are possessed by some one 
animal or another, in greater perfection than by man, 
though perhaps there is none that inherits such excellence 
in all the five senses. We are not to judge of the 
degree of sensation with which nature has endowed us 
from the blunted condition of these organs in a state of 
society. An American Indian has such an acute sight, 
that he can discover the prints of his enemies' feet, can 
ascertain their number with the greatest exactness, and 
the length of time which has elapsed since their passage ; 
he can discover the fires, and hear the noises of his 
enemies, when no sign of the contiguity of any human 
being can be discovered by the most vigilant European. 
Nothing can be plainer than that a life of society is un- 
favorable to all the animal powers of man. Such a 
minute and scrupulous exercise of his senses is not 
necessary to his safety or his support, and he gradually 
subsides into that mediocrity of organs, which is sufficient 
for his altered condition. One of the immediate effects 
of civilization is to render such excessive bodily perfec- 
tion entirely useless. A Choctaw could run from here 
to Oxford without stopping : I go in the mail coach ; 
and the time that the savage has been employed in 
learning to run so far, I have employed in something 
else. It would not only be useless in me to run like a 
Choctaw, but foolish and disgraceful. 

An irresistible proof of the vast improvement of which 
the senses are capable, is the education of the deaf and 
dumb, and the blind ; which proceeds upon the principle 
that, after one sense is taken away, the others may be 
made much more acute in their exercise, and much more 
extensive in their employment. The sense of touch be- 
came so acute in Professor Saunderson, who had been 
blind from one year old, that he could discover with the 


greatest exactness the slightest inequality of surface, and 
could distinguish, in the most finished works, the slight- 
est oversight in the polish. In the cabinet of medals at 
Cambridge he could single out the Roman medals with 
the utmost exactness. When any object passed before 
his face, though at some distance, he discovered it, and 
eould guess its size with considerable accuracy. When 
he walked, he knew when he passed by a tree, a wall, or 
a house. His ear had become so accurate from habit, 
that he could not only recognize those with whom he 
was acquainted, by the sound of their voices, but could 
judge with the utmost accuracy of the size of any room 
into which he was conducted. 

The most singular instance of this substitution of one 
sense for another, and the degree of perfection to which 
particular senses can be carried, is recorded in the Trans- 
actions of the Manchester Society, from whence I have 
taken it. " John Metcalf, a native of the neighborhood 
of Manchester, became blind," says Dr. Bew, " at a very 
early age, so as to be quite unconscious of light and its 
various effects. This man passed the younger part of 
his life as a wagoner, and occasionally as a guide during 
the night in intricate roads, when the tracks were cov- 
ered with snow. Strange as this may appear to those 
who can see, the employment he has since undertaken is 
still more extraordinary ; it is one of the last to which 
we should ever suppose a blind man would turn his atten- 
tion ; — his present occupation is that of a projector and 
surveyor of highways in difficult and mountainous parts. 
With the assistance only of a long staff, I have several 
times met this man traversing the roads, ascending preci- 
pices, exploring valleys, and investigating their several 
extents, forms, and situations, so as to answer his design 
in the best manner. The plans which he designs, and 
the estimates which he makes, are done in a manner pe- 
culiar to himself, and of which he can not well convey 
the meaning to others. His abilities, nevertheless, in 
this way are so great, that he finds constant employ- 
ment. Most of the roads over the Peak in Derbyshire 
have been altered by his direction, particularly those in 
the vicinity of Buxton ; and he is at this time construct- 


ing a new one between Wilmslow and Congleton, with a 
view to open a communication with the great London 
road, without being obliged to pass over the mountains." 

To these very remarkable cases, may be added that 
of Stanley the organist; the blind at Paris, who are 
taught to read, write, and print ; and the equally extra- 
ordinary Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which I 
dare say many persons here present have visited. All 
these valuable and useful institutions, which do honor to 
the ingenuity and humanity of man, merely avail them- 
selves of that superfluity of senses (if I may use the ex- 
pression) which nature has given us, and make those 
which survive, do the duties of that which is deceased. 
It seems, at first sight, very singular that a blind child 
should be taught to read ; but observe what the common 
process is with every child : a child sees certain marks 
upon a plain piece of paper, which he is taught to call A, 
B, C ; but if you were to raise certain marks in relief 
upon pasteboard, as you may of course do, and teach a 
blind child to call these marks which he felt A, B, C, a 
blind child would as easily learn his alphabet by his fin- 
gers as another would do by his eyes, and might go on 
feeling through Homer or Virgil as we do by persevering 
in looking at the book. Just in the same manner, I should 
not be surprised if the alphabet could be taught by a se- 
ries of well-contrived flavors ; and we may even live to 
see the day when men may be taught to smell out their 
learning, and when a fine scenting day shall be (which it 
certainly is not at present) considered as a day peculiarly 
favorable to study. 

A curious question may be agitated as to the resem- 
blance of the senses to each other. All the ideas of see- 
ing bear a resemblance to each other, and all of hearing, 
and so forth ; or do we only conceive them to resemble 
each other because they enter the mind by the same 
channel ? Is there any more resemblance in the taste 
of vinegar and the taste of a peach, than there is between 
the taste of vinegar and the sound of an iEolian harp ? 
I am very much inclined to think there is not ; and that 
the only reason of supposing a resemblance is, that they 
affect the same organ. I believe there is a much great- 


er analogy between those ideas of every sense which 
produce a similar tone of mind, whether of excitement, 
or soothing, or dislike, or horror, than there is between 
ideas of the same sense which stand in very different de- 
grees of favor with the mind. The resemblance seems 
to be much more intimate between soft sounds, fragrant 
smells, smooth surfaces, pleasant tastes, and refreshing 
colors, than between soft sounds and horrible crashes, 
smooth surfaces and lacerating inequalities, pleasant 
tastes and caustic bitterness, refreshing color and sable 

In mere sensation, the mind appears to be very nearly 
passive : when the organ is in a free and healthy state, 
it is impressed by outward objects without any choice of 
ours. Whoever walks out into the country, can not 
avoid seeing the color of the grass and the shape of the 
trees to which his eyes are directed. He has not sensa- 
tions because he chooses to have them, but they come 
upon him till he removes the organ, and for a time de- 
prives it of its powers. f * 

% %: zfa ^ % ^p ^p tP 

One of the most important branches of this subject of 
sensation is, the distinction between those sensations 
which are really derived from the sense itself, and those 
which are connected with them by mere association. 
We say we hear a bell ring when in fact it is utterly 
impossible we should do so, for a bell is an object of 
sight and touch ; and we might as well say that we 
heard a color, or heard a thick substance. The fact is, 
we hear only a sound, which constant experience has 
led us to refer to a bell as its cause. We smell that 
something is burning, in the same manner. Burning is 
an object of sight, and can not be smelt ; but that odor 
can be smelt w r hich experience has taught us to connect 
with the phenomena of burning. So that what we are 
at first apt to 'consider and to call simple sensations are 
in fact accompanied by, and involved with, numberless 
other sensations, which experience has combined to- 
gether. Our senses would be comparatively of small 

f [Four pages of manuscript are here wanting.] 


importance to us but for these rapid, compound, and 
indissoluble associations ; so that a man becomes to have 
a sort of sixth sense, compounded of all the others, and 
exercising, in a single act, their aggregate perfections. 
A child can hear, and see, and feel, as well as a man ; 
but he exercises these senses without connecting them 
with all that their intelligences imply. The case is pre- 
cisely the same with men skilled in any art or profession, 
and others ignorant of it ; — the difference between them 
is in those intimate associations of sensation which one 
has formed and the other not. I can see out at sea as 
well as a sailor ; but he pronounces that object to be a 
three-decked ship in which I can neither distinguish 
mast, or deck, or any thing else. We both see precisely 
the same thing, — a brown mass of a certain magnitude. 
It was to him, when first he went to sea, a brown lump 
also ; long experience has taught him, that this is the 
appearance of a man-of-war. I have had no experience, 
and it is to me only a simple sensation, i" see only the 
object; he sees the thing signified. There are, in the 
case of vision, a prodigious variety of sensations which 
we suppose ourselves to derive from the eye, and which 
are, in fact, derived from the touch. It will appear very 
singular to those who have never reflected on these sub- 
jects, when I say, that we can neither see the distance 
of any objects, nor their size, nor their figure ; and yet 
there is nothing which science has more clearly proved. 
The eye originally sees nothing but color and surface. 
A man born blind and suddenly restored to sight would 
not have the least conception of the distance of objects ; 
all objects, whether far or near, w r ould appear to be near 
to his eye. This was long imagined to be the fact, and 
was afterward proved to be so, in the memorable case 
of the young man who was couched by Cheselden. He 
actually made this mistake, and conceived the pictures 
on the opposite wall to be quite close to his eye. If the 
eye can see nothing but color and surface, why should 
the alteration of color and surface give the idea of dis- 
tance ? A color half as bright, and a surface half as 
great, do not necessarily imply a distance proportion- 
ally greater. We might have been so constituted as 


that an object should have become fainter the nearer it 
approached. The fact is, we have determined by ex- 
perience that these signs to the eye, of fainter color and 
diminished surface, are inseparably connected with dis- 
tance, and that bodies are nearer to the touch when they 
are brighter to the eye : therefore the moment we see 
brightness we think of proximity, and so imagine we 
see that a thing is near ; and the moment the color be- 
comes confused we think of remoteness, and so imagine 
we see that a thing is remote. It is by rendering color 
more languid and confused, that painters can represent 
objects at a very different distance upon the same flat 
canvas. The mere diminution of the magnitude of an 
object would not have the effect of making it appear at 
a greater distance. For if, in a cattle piece, the artist 
were to make one cow ten times as little as all the rest, 
the animal would by no means appear ten times as dis- 
tant from the eye, but would be taken for a calf in the 
foreground instead of a cow in the distant scenery. 

Dr. Reid quotes a very curious observation made by 
Bishop Berkeley in his travels through Italy and Sicily, 
which, by the by, I rather believe he performed on foot. 
He observed that, in those countries, cities and palaces 
seen at a great distance appeared to him nearer by 
several miles than they really were ; and he very judi- 
ciously imputed it to this cause, — that the purity of that 
air gave to very distant objects a degree of brightness 
and distinctness which, in the grosser air of his own 
country, belonged only to those which are near. It 
would be curious to know whether Italians are apt to 
make the reverse of the bishop's observation in this 
country, and to ascertain what the apparent distance is, 
according to their estimation, from London to Kensing- 
ton, during a thick fog in this pleasant month of Decem- 
ber. This mode of discovering distance by the distinct- 
ness or indistinctness of color, is the reason why we 
mistake the size of objects in a fog. A little gentleman 
who understands optics, may always be sure to enjoy a 
temporary elevation in a fog ; and by walking out in that 
state of the weather, will be quite certain of being taken 
for a man six feet high ; for the indistinctness of color 


first makes us consider him to be at a much greater 
distance than he really is, and then a man who appears 
so big at the supposed distance of 300 yards, we can not 
but judge to be one of the tallest and most robust of 
men. Secondly, another mode in which we determine 
the distance of objects, is by changing the form of the 
eye. Nature has given us the power of adapting this 
organ to certain distances by contracting one set of 
muscles, and to other distances by contracting another 
set. As to the manner in which this is done, anatomists 
are not agreed ; but whatever be the manner, it is cer- 
tain that young people have commonly the power of 
adapting their eyes to all distances of the object, from 
six or seven inches to fifteen or sixteen feet, so as to 
have perfect and distinct vision at any distance within 
these limits. Now, place an object at the distance of 
six inches from the eye, and gradually remove it to six- 
teen or seventeen feet, you will find that all the muscles 
of the eye are employed all that time in altering the 
shape of the eye, and accommodating it to different 
distances ; so that, by long experience, the efforts I am 
compelled to make in order to see at these different dis- 
tances become themselves the signs of these distances ; 
and if any person were wounded in these muscles about 
the eye, so as to disturb his usual efforts to obtain dis- 
tinct vision, he would lose his guide of distance, and 
become unable to see as well as before, though precisely 
the same appearances would be presented to his eye. 

A third mode by which we acquire the notion of dis- 
tance is, the inclination of the eyes toward each other. 
A line drawn through the center of the eye to the 
retina, and produced beyond it, is called the axis of the 
eye ; and it is plain that the inclination of these lines 
toward each other must vary as the distance of the ob- 
jects varies toward which they are directed. Of this 
inclination we are not conscious ; but we are conscious 
of the effort employed in making it ; and this effort, as 
well as the others of which I have been last speaking, 
becomes the sign of the distance of objects. It is for 
this reason that those who have lost the sight of one eye 
are apt, even within arm's length, to make mistakes in 


the distance of objects which are easily avoided by those 
who see with two eyes ; though, after some time, in 
persons blind of one eye, this inclination of the axes 
ceases to be a criterion of distance, and these mistakes 
are avoided. This inclination of the optic axes is the 
principal obstacle to complete deception in the art of 
painting. The coloring (one mode by which we deter- 
mine distance) may be perfect, and may give us the 
notion of an object being at the distance of many miles ; 
but, unfortunately, the figure of the eye, and u the incli- 
nation of the axes, are set for the distance of two or 
three yards (the real space between the eye and the 
picture), so that the mind, wanting one of its signs of dis- 
tance, is far from being completely deceived. In order 
to remove this defect, connoisseurs in painting look at a 
picture with one eye, through a tube, which excludes 
the view of all other objects. By this means, the incli- 
nation of the eyes toward each other (one method by 
which we judge of the deception) is prevented. Dr. 
Reid proposes, as an improvement, this method, — that 
the aperture of the tube next the eye should be as small 
as a pin-hole ; because then the other mode of judging 
of distances, the conformation of the eye, is avoided, 
and we have no means left of judging of the distances 
but the light and the color, which are in the power of 
the painter. When the optic axes are, on account of 
the great distance of objects, nearly parallel, so that to 
look at an object still more distant requires no fresh 
effort, our power of judging of distances entirely ceases. 
This is the reason why the sun, moon, planets, and fixed 
stars appear to be all at the same distance, as if they 
touched the concave surface of a great sphere. The 
sphere itself is at that distance beyond which all objects 
affect the eye in the same manner. 

Another mode in which we determine the distance of 
objects is by referring them to those intervening objects 
whose distance is known. We are so much accustomed 
to measure with our eye the ground which we travel, 
and to compare the judgments of distance formed by 
sight with our experience or information, that we learn 
by degrees in this manner to form a more accurate 


judgment of the distance of terrestrial objects than we 
could do by any of the means above mentioned. It is 
for want of some intervening objects that it is so diffi- 
cult to measure distances by the eye up in the air, out 
at sea, or on extensive plains. This mode of estimating 
distance accounts for the superior apparent magnitude 
of the moon in the horizon : for, first, its distance seems 
greater on account of the known distance of the terres- 
trial objects that intervene ; and where the visible 
magnitude is the same, the real magnitude of objects is 
always determined to be in proportion to the distance. 

The proof of this being the real solution of the diffi- 
culty is, that if the horizontal moon be viewed through 
a tube which excludes all terrestrial objects, its appear- 
ance is precisely the same as at any other time. 

The last method by which we determine the distance 
of objects is by their visible magnitude. By experience, 
I know what figure a man or any other known object 
makes to my eye at the distance of ten feet ; I perceive 
the gradual diminution of this visible figure at the dis- 
tance of twenty, forty, one hundred feet, till it vanish 
altogether : hence a certain visible magnitude of a known 
object becomes the sign of a certain determinate dis- 
tance, and carries along with it the conception and be- 
lief of that distance. 

I shall say nothing here of the moral method of meas- 
uring distances ; — the distance from home to school, 
in the days of our youth, being generally double the dis- 
tance from school to home ; and so forth with all other 
passions which quicken or retard the feeling of time. 

It is just the same with the cubical magnitudes of 
bodies. We think we see that a body is thick and round; 
it is quite certain that we see neither the one nor the 
other, for the eye can see nothing but plain surfaces ; 
but then w r e learn from experience that certain different 
appearances of light or shade upon plain surfaces are 
constantly connected with those feelings of bodies which 
we call round and thick. Just in the same manner it is 
probable that the notions w T hich the ear has of distance 
-and position are entirely the result of experience ; and 
that a person deaf from his birth, and suddenly cured. 


would be quite ignorant from what quarter, and from 
what distance, sound originated. Thus we see that the 
senses soon learn to lay aside their own homely and 
barren language, and to speak in a more elegant and 
universal dialect ; and we see that man, endowed with 
the senses he now is, and deprived of the power of con- 
necting their notices together by indissoluble associa- 
tions, would have risen very little above the rank of the 
lower animals. All the labors of the human mind point 
and tend toward the same process which has been 
carried on in our early infancy with respect to associated 
sensation, — so to connect together, by copious induction, 
the sign with the thing signified, that the one may 
suggest the other with the certainty and velocity of 

The phenomena of double vision and inverted images 
I must, for fear of protracting my lecture too long, en- 
tirely pass over ; referring those whose curiosity may be 
excited on these subjects to Bishop Berkeley's Essay 
on Vision, Dr. Porterfield on the Eye, Dr. Wells's Essay 
on Vision, and Dr. Reid's admirable first work on the 
Human Mind. To prove, in some measure, how much 
of our sight is original, and how much acquired, and 
to illustrate therefore a great deal of what I have 
said throughout this lecture, I shall read to you the 
famous case of a young man born blind, and suddenly 
restored to his sight by undergoing the operation of 

A young gentleman, who was born with two cata- 
racts upon each of his eyes, was, in 1728, couched by 
Mr. Cheselden, and by that means for the first time 
made to see distinctly. " At first," says the operator, 
" he could bear but very little light, and the things he 
saw he thought extremely large ; but upon seeing 
things larger, those first seen he conceived less, never 
being able to imagine any lines beyond the bounds he 
saw. The room he was in, he said, he knew to be but 
part of the house, yet he could not conceive that the 
whole house would look bigger. 

" Though we say of this gentleman that he was blind, 
as we do of all people who have ripe cataracts, yet they 



are never so blind from that cause but that they can dis- 
cern day from night, and, for the most part, in a strong 
light, distinguish black, white, and scarlet : but they can 
not perceive the shape of any thing ; for the light by 
which these perceptions are made, being let in obliquely 
through the aqueous humor, or the anterior surface of 
the crystaline humor, by which the rays can not be 
brought into a focus upon the retina, they can discern in 
no other manner than a sound eye can through a glass 
of broken jelly, where a great variety of surfaces so dif- 
ferently refract the light, that the several distinct pencils 
of rays can not be collected by the eye into their proper 
foci ; wherefore the shape of an object in such a case 
can not be discerned at all, though the color may : and 
thus it was with this young gentleman, who, though he 
knew those colors asunder, in a good light, yet, when he 
saw them after he was couched, the faint ideas he had of 
them before, were not sufficient for him to know them 
by afterward ; and therefore he did not think them the 
same which he had before known by those names. 

" When he first saw, he was so far from making any 
judgment about distances, that he thought all objects 
whatever touched his eyes (as he expressed it), as what 
he felt did his skin ; and thought no objects so agreeable 
as those which were smooth and regular, though he could 
form no judgment of their shape, or guess what it was in 
any object that was pleasing to him. He knew not the 
shape of any thing, nor any one thing from another, how- 
ever different in shape or magnitude ; but upon being 
told what things were whose form he before knew from 
feeling, he would carefully observe that he might know 
them again ; but having too many objects to learn at 
once, he forgot many of them, and (as he said) at first 
learned to know, and again forget, a thousand things in 
a day. One particular only, though it may appear tri- 
fling, I will relate. Having often forgot which was the 
cat and which the dog, he was ashamed to ask ; but 
catching the cat (which he knew by feeling), he was ob- 
served to look at her steadfastly, and then, setting her 
down, said, ' So, Puss ! I shall know you another time/ 

" We thought he soon knew what pictures represented 


which were shown him; but we found afterward we 
were mistaken, for, about two months after he was 
couched, he discovered at once they represented solid 
bodies, when to that time he considered them only as 
party-colored planes, or surfaces diversified with variety 
of paints : but even then, he was no less surprised, — ex- 
pecting the pictures would feel like the things they repre- 
sented ; and was amazed when he found those parts 
which, by their light and shadow, appeared now round 
and uneven, felt only flat like the rest, — and asked which 
was the lying sense, feeling or seeing. 

" In a year after seeing, the young gentleman being 
carried upon Epsom Downs, and observing a large 
prospect, he was exceedingly delighted with it, and 
called it a new kind of seeing." 



* * * * * before the 

mind can gaze upon the scene with any portion of tran- 
quillity and composure. This mistake of conception for 
sensation is also the best key to the phenomena observed 
in madness. A madman has the conception of all the 
pageantry of a court, and so may any man in his senses ; 
the difference is, the one knows it to be only a creation 
of his mind, the other really believes he sees dukes, and 
marquises, and all the splendor of a real court. If he is 
not very far gone, he pays some attention to the objects 
of sense about him, and tells you that he is confined in 
this sorry situation by the perfidy and rebellion of his 
subjects. As the disease further advances, he totally 
neglects the objects of his senses ; — does not see that he 
sleeps on straw and is chained down, but abandons 
himself wholly to the creations of his mind, and riots in 
every extravagance of thought. This, though by far 
the most common species of insanity, is not the only one. 
There are some persons quite rational in their percep- 
tions, who are considered as deranged only from a 
morbid association of ideas ; as in the instance of the 
patient mentioned in Mr. Haslam's book, who persevered 
in a vegetable diet because, he said, roast and boiled 
meat felt the most exquisite pain while any person was 
devouring them. 

The mistaking of conceptions for sensations appears 
also to be the proper explanation of what passes in our 
minds during sleep. To consider sleep aright, we must 
divide it into stages. In profound sleep, there is no 


evidence that we think at all. When we have been 
exhausted with great fatigue or acute pain, we often lie 
motionless for hours, without the smallest recollection 
that a single idea has passed through our minds: the 
periods of sleeping and waking appear to be consecutive 
instants of time. In this state of sleep it seems as if 
every operation of the mind were entirely suspended ; 
and in the instance of those who have taken quantities 
of opium, or become drowsy from long journeys over 
snow, it seems to have a great tendency to death. We 
frequently dream in our sleep without recollecting the 
slightest feature of our dreams when we wake. It 
would appear at first, that processes of thought which 
have made such faint impressions on the memory must 
have been the slightest and most disconnected of all 
dreams ; and yet the most rational and systematic 
dreamers — those who walk in their sleep — have seldom 
or ever the most distant recollection that they have been 
dreaming at all. 

In the common state of sleep, where we dream with- 
out stirring, or, at least, without walking about, there 
seems to be, first, a great diminution of the power of the 
will over the body, but by no means a total suspension 
of that power : for a person much agitated in his dreams 
can cry out, and therefore subject the organs of speech 
to his will ; or he can toss about his hands and feet, and 
so subject those parts of his body to his will ; but, how- 
ever, the influence of the will upon the body, though not 
wholly suspended, is certainly considerably weakened. 
In this sort of sleep it is still less suspended over the 
mind, for a man makes a bargain in his dreams, and 
examines the terms of the bargain, and dwells upon one 
part of it with some accuracy; he argues in his sleep, not 
merely repeating, as has been said, arguments which 
have occurred to him in his waking hours, but inventing 
new ones, with some pains and attention. I mention 
these circumstances in opposition to those who have 
contended that the influence of the will is entirely 
suspended in sleep. I should think diminished would 
be a better word, — for suspended it certainly is not in 
the body, and still less so in the mind ; though its power 


is incomparably less than in our waking hours. But the 
most striking phenomenon in our sleep is that which 
I have shown to take place in madness — the confusion 
between our sensations and conceptions. I may think 
when I am awake of a chariot drawn by tigers ; but I 
know then, it is merely a thought. When I am in a 
revery, I am in a confused state between doubt and 
belief of its existence. When I am asleep, I take this 
thought for a reality ; and as our sensations follow one 
another in a regular and established order, and our con- 
ceptions are very loosely connected together, this is the 
reason of all the absurdity and incongruity of our 
dreams. Indeed, sense and nonsense, congruity and in- 
congruity, are only determined by the outer world ; and 
we consider our conceptions to be wild or rational only 
as they correspond with it. 

According as sleep is more or less perfect, sensations 
do or do not produce an effect upon the mind, exactly 
the same as in revery or in madness. A person may, in 
some cases, sleep so soundly, that the firing a pistol close 
to his ear will not rouse him; — at other times the 
slightest sensation of light or noise will rouse him. A 
sort of intermediate state between these two is that 
where the sensation comes to the mind in so imperfect a 
state, that it produces some effect upon the current of 
conceptions without correcting them. If there is a 
window left open, and the cold air blows in, the sufferer 
may think himself on the top of Mount Caucasus, buried 
in the snow ; or the cat making a noise shall immediately 
transport him in imagination to the Opera. 

The most singular phenomenon respecting sleep is 
somnambulism, or walking in the sleep. The instances 
are innumerable of men who have walked along the 
ridges of houses in their sleep ; have got up, dressed 
themselves, taken pen, ink, and paper, have written very 
rationally and connectedly, and acted precisely as they 
would have done had they been awake. Out of this 
mass of histories I shall make a short extract from a 
well-authenticated one, reported by a Physical Society 
at Lausanne. It is the case of Devaux, a lad about 
thirteen years of age, who lived in the town of Vevay. 


He did not walk in his sleep every nignt, but passed 
sometimes six or seven weeks, without a fit of somnam- 
bulism. Before the fit begins he utters broken words, 
sits up in his bed, abruptly begins to talk with more 
coherence, then rises, and goes wherever the nature of 
his dream prompts him. Having risen one night with 
the intention of eating grapes, he left the house, went 
through the town, and passed on to a vineyard, where 
he expected good cheer. He was followed by several 
persons, who kept at a distance from him, one of whom 
fired a pistol, the noise of which immediately awoke 
him, and he fell down in a fit. Once he was observed 
dressing himself in the dark. His clothes were on a 
large table mixed with those of some other persons. At 
last a light was brought : he separated the clothes and 
dressed himself with sufficient precision. Another time 
he got out of bed and finished a piece of writing, in 
order, as he said, to please his master. It consisted of 
three kinds of writing, text, half-text, and small writing, 
each of them performed with the proper pen. He drew, 
in the corner of the same paper, the figure of a hat. 
He then asked for a penknife, to take out a blot of ink 
which he had made between two letters ; and he erased 
it without injuring either. Lastly, he made some calcu- 
lations with great accuracy. 

Now, in this case of Devaux's, and in all such cases 
of somnambulism, there is an approach to the awaking 
state of the mind : they afford an intermediate step 
between sleep and vigilance, and differ only from mad- 
ness in the time of their duration. For in somnambu- 
lism the will has recovered great part of its dominion 
over the body and mind which it had lost in perfect 
sleep ; for we see that a somnambulist walks about, 
and thinks, and reasons, and acts, with a great share of 
precision. The difference between a somnambulist and 
a man awake, is, that the first distinguishes between his 
sensations and perceptions only in part, the latter en- 
tirely. Devaux got up and wrote a copy for his master, 
— he saw the pen and ink, and the writing, and various 
other things, as plainly as if he had been awake ; but he 
did not attend to the appearance of the room, the beds, 


and the faces about him ; he most probably thought he 
was in school, with his school-fellows about him, and so 
far he was under the influence of his conceptions. This 
is just the case with innumerable madmen we see in 
Bedlam. Somnambulism continued would, so far as I 
can see, differ nothing from madness. Dreaming differs 
from madness only in the diminution of the power of 
the will ; excepting that there are very few madmen in 
Bedlam so mad as a dreamer. There seems also to be 
a certain connection between the augmented power of 
conception and the diminished power of will ; so that 
a man becomes, in sleeping, motionless, exactly as he 
becomes mad, and regains his power of moving as he re- 
gains his power of moving for a rational purpose. This 
happens, luckily enough for dreamers, who would other- 
wise infallibly break their limbs every time they dreamed ; 
and for the somnambulist, who, when he can move about, 
has acquired a considerable share of reason : so that we 
may perceive, if these observations be true, the following 
phenomena to take place, exactly in proportion as the 
outward senses lose their power, and the conceptions 
acquire a greater vigor than is natural to them : — 
revery, absence, somnambulism, madness, and sleep ; 
and by reversing the scale, the conceptions gradually 
lose their force, and the sensations gain it. 

A similar mistake is often seen to take place between 
the ideas of memory and those of conception ; they are 
in many instances confounded together. Children are 
often detected, in falsehoods which evidently originate 
from this cause : they have, not learned to distinguish 
between their memory and their conception, and there- 
fore believe they have seen and heard things which they 
have only fancied. In the same manner, very old men, 
approaching to their second infancy, are apt to confound 
what they have only conceived, with what they have 
remembered ; and for this cause to become somewhat 
unintelligible to those who converse with them. 

Nature has probably made a strong original difference 
between our sensations and conceptions ; but whatever 
the original difference may be, it is considerably strength- 
ened by habit. Everv vear we live, till our faculties 


decline, the difference becomes more and more consider- 
able, and is, of course, much less remarkable in infancy 
than in manhood. This I take to be the reason why 
children can amuse themselves so well and so long with 
dolls, and talk to them as if they were alive : not that I 
suppose the deception is ever perfect, but that their con- 
ceptions approaching much nearer to their sensations, 
communicate more of the interest of real life. As the 
child gets older, and the difference between these two 
classes of ideas more wide, the wooden darling is tossed 
aside, because the conception has become a more lan- 
guid and uninteresting representative of reality. There 
seems to be a regular process carried on in the mind 
throughout its whole existence, by which ideas of 
memory are converted into ideas of conception. If a 
poet writes two or three hundred verses, very many of 
the combinations of words, perhaps whole verses, will 
be faithful copies of what he has once remembered, and 
which, divested of all the marks of their origin, have re- 
appeared to the writer as productions of his own brain. 
In the same manner, in a fancy landscape, or in grounds 
laid out by a man of taste, many of the combinations 
are in all probability copies of real scenes, which the 
person who introduced them could once have referred 
to some particular spot, but have now become his own 
property, from an inability to discover their former 
master, — like domestic animals which run away into 
the woods, and belong to whoever can catch them. 

I shall mention only one more fact respecting concep- 
tion, and it is a curious one, for which no reason can be 
given but that such is the constitution of our nature ; — I 
mean, the great facility we all exhibit of conceiving the. 
impressions of one sense better than those of another. 
It is, for instance, much easier to conceive any sight, 
than to conceive a taste, or a smell, or a feeling, or a 
sound. Sight is indeed so much the favorite and im- 
pressive sense, that almost the whole language of meta- 
physics is borrowed from it. Let any person attempt to 
conceive the smell or the taste of a melon, — they will 
find their conceptions of those sensations extremely faint ; 



but they will without difficulty form a clear conception 
of its figure and color. 

To epitomize then the tedious account I have given of 
this class of ideas, we must remember the threefold divi- 
sion of ideas with which I began — ideas of the outward 
senses, ideas we conceive in our mind, and ideas we re- 
member. We must recollect that when ideas of the 
senses are little heeded, and the conceptions of the mind 
acquire the force of realities, then we are said to be 
absent, or to be in a revery, or we are under the in- 
fluence of great passions, or asleep, or somnambulists, or 
madmen. There is less difference between ideas of 
sense and conceptions in our infancy than in our mature 
age, when the difference is widened by experience ; and 
this difference again becomes less, when the effects of 
experience are lost in extreme old age. We conceive 
some objects of sense better than others. 

Men differ in their power of lively conception, but 
more in their habits of attention ; but conception is in 
all men much strengthened by habit. Lastly, ideas of 
memory fade away, and appear in a renovated shape, as 
the mere creatures of the brain. These are the faint 
and imperfect notices of the great operations which are 
passing within us : the practical inference from them is, 
while we give vigor, extent, and variety to our concep- 
tions, by cultivating an ardent curiosity for knowledge, 
to repress their dangerous vivacity by a cool and steady 
appeal to the realities of life ; to cherish this reproductive 
faculty, as the source of eloquence, poetry, and wit ; but 
so to cherish it that we will govern it, and even exact 
from it a ready obedience to the natural majesty of truth. 
He who can thus manage his mind has two worlds before 
him instead of one : he can contemplate and act ; and, 
dispelling the vision of a rich and creative mind, can 
come down into the world of realities to observe with 
steadfastness, and to act with consistency. 



* * * * * He obtains all 

the convenience which he does obtain by the reference 
of individual transactions to certain general heads ; and 
thus, by knowing only the nature of any transaction he 
wishes to refer to, and by seeking for it under its appro- 
priate division, it is found with facility and dispatch. 

Mr. Stewart conceives (and, as it appears to me, with 
great justice) that the decay of memory observable in 
old men, proceeds as frequently from the very little in- 
terest they take in what is passing around them, as in 
any bodily decay by which their powers of mind are 
weakened : — " In so far as this decay of memory which 
old age brings along with it, is a necessary consequence 
of a physical change in the constitution, or a necessary 
consequence of a diminution of sensibility, it is the part 
of a wise man to submit cheerfully to the lot of his 
nature. But it is not unreasonable to think, that some- 
thing may be done by our own efforts, to obviate the in- 
conveniences which commonly result from it. 

" If individuals who, in the early part of life, have 
weak memories, are sometimes able to remedy this de- 
fect by a greater attention to arrangement in their trans- 
actions, and to classification among their ideas, than is 
necessary to the bulk of mankind, might it not be possi- 
ble, in the same way, to ward off, at least to a certain 
degree, the encroachments which time makes on this 
faculty ? The few old men who continue in the active 
scenes of life to the last moment, it has often been re- 
marked, complain, in general, much less of a want of 


recollection than their cotemporaries. This is undoubt- 
edly owing, partly, to the effect which the pursuits of 
business must necessarily have in keeping alive the 
power of attention. But it is probably owing also to 
new habits of arrangement, which the mind gradually 
and insensibly forms from the experience of its growing 
infirmities. The apparent revival of memory in old men, 
after a temporary decline (which is a case that happens 
not unfrequently) seems to favor this supposition. 

" One old man I have, myself, had the good fortune to 
know, who, after a long, an active, and an honorable life, 
having begun to feel some of the usual effects of ad- 
vanced years, has been able to find resources in his own 
sagacity, against most of the inconveniences with which 
they are commonly attended ; and who, by watching his 
gradual decline with the cool eye of an indifferent ob- 
server, and employing his ingenuity to retard its prog- 
ress, has converted even the infirmities of age into a 
source of philosophical amusement."* 

I believe that this old gentleman was Dr. Reid ; and 
he certainly is a memorable instance of a victory gained 
over the infirmities of age. I have heard, from a friend 
of his, that at the age of seventy he was as keen and 
eager about the then new discoveries of chemistry as if 
he had been just beginning his career of science. Such 
facts appear to me to be of the greatest importance, as 
they evince what may be done by a noble effort of reso- 
lution. A modern writer, who at one time made some 
noise, says, that it is men's own faults if they die ; that 
dying is a mere trick, which may be avoided with a little 
resolution. I can not quite go so far as this, but I am 
convinced, that it is for a long time in every man's 
power to determine whether he will be old or not. The 
outward marks of age we are all of us very willing to de- 
fer ; forgetting that we may wear the inward bloom of 
youth with true dignity and grace, and be ready to learn, 
and eager to give pleasure to others, to the latest moment 
of our existence. 

In the same manner, memory may be wonderfully 

* Stewart's Elements of Philosophy, chap. vi. p. 416. 


strengthened by referring single facts and observations 
to one simple principle ; and by these means we can 
either remember the principle by remembering the fact, 
or the fact by remembering the principle. 

It is very common to hear people complain that they 
can not remember what they read ; and the reason is very 
obvious, — that they are perpetually admitting into their 
minds a string of insulated events without arranging 
them with any method, which may be instrumental to 
their reproduction. Let us take a few instances of this. 
The first shall be in history, and in the history of re- 
ligion. I believe the rule which all wise and moderate 
men adopt, with respect to toleration, at present, is this 
— that no man ought to undergo persecution for his re- 
ligious opinions, if they have not a tendency to disturb 
the public peace : that point secured, the rest is left to 
discussion only ; and every man must adjust his faith as 
his understanding enlightens, and his conscience governs 
him, without the fear of human punishment. An igno- 
rance of this wise and simple rule, and of the proper limits 
of human interference, is a key to all the bloody and 
atrocious persecutions which for three hundred years 
desolated Europe. Again, nobody now thinks that 
Providence perpetually and immediately interferes to 
punish vice — that if any man, for instance, commits a 
murder this night, Providence will work a miracle to dis- 
cover it ; but the rude idea of religion in all barbarous 
ages is, that Divine justice is like human justice, and that 
guilt is immediately overtaken by punishment. This 
mistake may be traced in the legal institutions of almost 
all barbarous people, and is the principle to which in- 
numerable separate facts may be referred at all periods 
of the world. It is, of course, the origin of the corsenet, 
of the ordeal, of the /uvdgog among the Greeks, the judicial 
tournament in the days of chivalry, and of the trial by 
red water on the coast of Africa. France has fallen un- 
der the dominion of a single man, so did Rome, so have 
innumerable free countries. The cause, in many in- 
stances, has been precisely the same — that anarchy 
which has been produced by the licentiousness of the 
people, and which has rendered them an easy prey to the 


first ambitious man who could ingratiate himself with 
the army. Such examples are very trite, and what 
might occur to any one ; I only mention them to illus- 
trate the importance of philosophical arrangement to 
memory, and to show how much more likely facts are to 
reappear when we want them, if we have clustered 
numbers of them together as illustrative of a simple prin- 
ciple, than if they are promiscuously scattered through 
the understanding without any such connecting tie. The 
most striking instance of it is botany. What but the 
most precise and rigorous classification could possibly 
enable a botanist to remember one thousandth part of 
the plants which at present he can remember with unerr- 
ing certainty ? 

A considerable degree of importance has been attached 
by some writers on education to the scheme of artificial 
memory ; the general intention of which is, not to 
impress the thing to be remembered directly upon the 
memory, but to impress something easier than the 
original matter, which, by arbitrary association, shall 
recall it to the mind. Thus, the Battle of Hastings in 
the year life. What is the meaning of the year life ? 
Why, I stands for 1, i for 0, / for 6, and e for 6 ; and so 
we have the year 1066 : and by extending this idea we 
may put numbers into whole lines, and convey a system 
of chronology in a sort of poem. Another plan is, to 
keep in mind a house, with the apartments of which we 
are minutely acquainted, and, in speaking, to arrange 
our subject according to a preconcerted association, 
between the division of the matter and the house. This 
was a very common custom among the speakers of 
antiquity, though at present it seems to be quite disused. 
I confess, myself, I have no very high opinion of these 
inventions : the expression of facts in verse, as is done 
in those doggerel rhymes by which we remember the 
days of the month, appears to be the best of them ; but, 
in general, the remedy is much worse than the disease, 
and the difficulty less difficult than the assistance which 
is to overcome it. They accustom the mind to light and 
foolish associations, which have no foundation in nature ; 
they convey an exaggerated notion of the difficulty of 


remembering, when such inventions are resorted to to 
effect it, — increase the disgust which such difficulties are 
apt to inspire, — weaken that confidence in the strength 
of memory, and the intense habits of labor founded upon 
that confidence, which breed up a race of great scholars, 
and cany men through the most intricate and extended 

Upon nearly the same principles there can, I should 
think, be very little doubt, of the bad effects of habitually 
writing down those facts and events which we wish to 
remember ; — they are taken down for future considera- 
tion, and consequently receive very little present con- 
sideration. From a conviction that our knowledge can 
be thus easily recalled, it is never systematically arranged 
or deeply engraved , we atone for the passive indolence 
of the mind by the mechanical labor of the hands, and 
write a volume without remembering a line. The de- 
sirable and the useful thing is, that we should carry our 
knowledge about with us, as we carry our health about 
with us ; that the one should be exhibited in the alacrity 
of our actions, and the other proved by the vigor of our 
thoughts. I would as soon call a man healthy who had 
a physician's prescription in his pocket, which he could 
take and recover from, as I would say that a man had 
knowledge who had no other proof of it to afford, than a 
pile of closely-written commonplace books. 

Every body knows the importance of exercising the 
memory ; and it seems to be very useful to carry it to 
the extent of getting select passages by heart ; — it 
insensibly adds to the riches and the copiousness of 
fancy, and communicates, perhaps, a habit of attentive 
reading. This practice is carried to a prodigious extent 
in our public schools, and furnishes men with materials 
for w T it and imagination through the whole of their lives. 
At the same time this practice is not without its danger, 
and that a very considerable one. He who trusts to 
what he can produce of other men's imagination is apt 
to lose the flower and freshness of his own, and gradually 
to sacrifice the vigor and originality of his mind. There 
is a homely old English proverb, that an ounce of mother 
is worth a pound of clergy ; and I confess, from my 


own feelings, I like better a very common production 
which seems to be the natural growth of the soil, than 
that exotic luxuriance which art has cherished, and 
which harmonizes so badly with every thing which 
surrounds it. 

But the great secret above all others for remembering, 

is, to work the mind up to a certain pitch of enthusiasm 


* # # # # # # 



# # # These are conceptions. If 1 gather 

together in my mind various implements of war, and 
create out of them the picture of that armor in which I 
clothe the hero of my poem, this is an act of imagina- 
tion ; so that imagination involves conception, though it 
is not involved by it. * 

***** their respective 
arts to any high degree of excellence without a con- 
siderable share of the faculty of imagination, and to them 
have the efforts of this faculty commonly been confined ; 
but there appear to be various exertions of mind perfectly 
similar to these, and to which we never think of applying 
the same word. For instance, in mechanical invention, 
no one would ever think of saying that Mr. Bramah had 
displayed a great deal of imagination in his patent locks, 
or that there was any poetry in a steam engine ; and 
yet the process in one and the other composition does 
not seem to be very dissimilar. Mr. Gray, in speaking 
of Mars, gives to his lance the epithet of thirsty, — 

" On Thracia's hill the Lord of War 
Shall curb the fury of his car, 
And drop his thirsty lance at thy command." 

Now let us see how this epithet of thirsty got into the 
mind of Mr. Gray. Perhaps he stole it (I believe he 
did) ; but if he did, we have only to reflect how it got 
into the mind of the person whose original property it 
was. But let us suppose it to have been Mr. Gray's 
own. By what process did he acquire it ? He began 


thinking about lances, and all the common notions 
attached to that of a lance rushed into his mind, — bloody, 
fierce, cruel, thick, thin, murderous, rapid, brazen, iron, 
&c. &c. At last came, all of a sudden, the epithet of 
thirsty; and the poet, perceiving its relation to his 
original substantive, and its aptitude to excite poetical 
feelings in the mind, immediately made it a part of his 
poem. If we follow out any long and complicated 
description in a poem, the same process will be found 
constantly to have taken place. Now is there any thing 
very different from this which takes place with respect 
to mechanical invention ? You want to work the rod 
of a pump by means of a horizontal axis which revolves 
above it. In considering; how it is to be effected, 
innumerable ideas connected with machinery crowd into 
the mind. A thousand projects are proposed, examined, 
and rejected, till at last the idea of a crank is hit upon. 
Its relation to the other parts is immediately perceived, 
and it becomes a part of the machine. Now in these 
two processes of mind, which have received such differ- 
ent names, I am not able to discover any difference ; 
— association brings together in each, a great number 
of connected ideas, and judgment discovers some relation 
between them which was not at first obvious : the only 
difference is in the ultimate objects which they have in 
view. The imagination of a poet proposes to itself to 
give pleasure by the sublime and beautiful ; that of a 
mechanical inventor has in view to promote some pur- 
pose of utility. It is precisely the same with every sort 
of invention. Pythagoras, in inventing his media of 
proof for the forty-seventh proposition, went to work 
very much as a poet goes to work, — first raising a multi- 
tude of images by dint of association, and then selecting 
and applying them from the perception of their relations. 
In the same manner with wit : the object differs, and the 
rapidity differs ; but the process of the understanding is 
the same as that w r e designate by the word imagina- 
tion, — ideas are gathered together, connected by the 
lighter sort of association, and then that particular rela- 
tion which constitutes wit is discovered. Indeed all the 
processes I have specified have received the common 


name of invention, though they have not been called by 
that of imagination : we speak of poetical, mechanical, 
geometrical invention, and of the invention of wit ; 
though we use the word imagination in a much more 
restricted sense. 

Imagination of all sorts, though originally dealt out 
with very different degrees of profusion to different men, 
is capable of great improvement from habit. As great 
part of imagination depends upon association, and the 
power of association always increases with practice, 
men acquire extraordinary command over particular 
classes of ideas, and are supplied with copiousness of 
materials for their collection, to which inexperienced 
and unpracticed minds can never attain. What a pro- 
digious command, for instance, over all those associations 
which are productive of wit, must the head wit of such 
a city as this or Paris have acquired in twenty years of 
facetiousness, — having been accustomed, for that space 
of time, to view all the characters and events which have 
fallen under his notice with a reference to these rela- 
tions ! What an enormous power of versification must 
Pope have gained, after his translations of the Iliad and 
the Odyssey ! so that no combination of words or inflec- 
tion of sounds, could possibly have been new to him ; 
and he must have almost meditated in hexameters, and 
conversed in rhyme. What a powerful human being 
must that man become who, beginning with original 
talents, has been accustomed, for half his life, to the 
eloquence of the bar or the senate ! No combination of 
circumstances can come before him for which he is un- 
prepared ; he is always ready for every purpose of 
defense and attack ; and trusts, with the most implicit 
confidence, to that host of words and images which he 
knows from long experience will rise up at any moment 
of exigence for his ornament and support. 

Imagination is improved by imitation ; as in living 
with men who are eminent for that faculty, or by read- 
ing those works in which its greatest efforts are to be 
found. It was the practice of some notorious man (I 
believe Bossuet.) to read a hundred lines of Homer before 
he sat down to compose ; and I have no doubt but that 


he might have derived from such a practice unusual 
energy and elevation, — that it must have filled his mind 
full of great images, and diffused heat and light over all 
that he thought and wrote. 

The imagination (which delights to be fed by the eye) 
is cherished and inflamed by great sights. Nothing can 
be more striking and solemn than the first sight of a 
mountainous country to a person who has been only 
accustomed to the sleepy flatness of an alluvial district. 
The abruptness and audacity of the scene, the swelling 
and magnitude of nature, the universal appearances of 
convulsion, the magnificent disorder and ruin, astonish a 
feeling mind, and not only fill it with grand images at 
present, but awaken its dormant life, rouse slumbering 
irritability, and tell those whom nature has made orators 
and poets that it is time to fulfil the noble purposes for 
which they were born. 

Mere magnitude — any thing vast — affects the imagina- 
tion and sets it to work. A first-rate ship of war, or 
a Gothic cathedral, the waters of an immense river dis- 
charging itself into the sea, the boundless prospect of the 
earth below, that we gain from the top of a high moun- 
tain, an expanse of stormy sea, the concave of heaven in 
a serene night, — all these examples of immensity are 
ever found to have a powerful effect upon this faculty of 
imagination. The imagination is stimulated by novelty ; 
and so much so, that whatever other cause affects it, it 
must be joined # # # # # 



***** we connect 

together two ideas in early life, which we find it abso- 
lutely impossible to separate in advanced age ; — we 
reason from them as from intuitive truths, and upon 
such topics are utterly impregnable to every attempt at 
conviction. These are the principal obstacles to the 
progress of the reasoning faculty ; and they are disor- 
ders of the mind so common, and so detrimental, that I 
shall speak of them more at large in my next and con- 
cluding lecture. When they happen not to exist, or 
when they have been guarded against by a good under- 
standing or a superior education, the conclusions we 
draw upon most subjects are sound and just : for if a 
question be discussed coolly, if the parties have no other 
interest in its termination but that of truth, if they thor- 
oughly understand the terms they employ, if they are 
well informed upon the related facts, and if they are, 
both, in the habit of guarding against accidental asso- 
ciations, the conclusions in which they terminate will 
probably be the same : there is hardly any difference of 
opinion not resolvable into one or the other of these 
causes. Here, then, we have an outline of that manly 
and high-prized reason, which, under the blessing and 
direction of God, arranges the affairs of this world ; 
which cools passion, unravels sophism, enlightens igno- 
rance, and detects mistake ; which wit can not discon- 
cert, nor eloquence bear down ; which appeals always 
to realities, and ever follows truth without insolence and 
without fear. For it is disgraceful to the immortal un- 


derstanding of man to be governed by sounds, and to 
be the slave of that speech which was given to do him 
service. It is beneath the loftiness of his faculties to 
take his notions of truth from the little hamlet in which 
he was bred, or from the fashions of thought which 
prevail in his hour of life : for truth dwells not on the 
Danube, or the Seine, or the Thames ; she is not this 
thing to-day, and to-morrow another ; but she is of all 
places, and all times the same, in every change and in 
every chance, — as firm as the pillars of the earth, and 
as beautiful as its fabric. Add to the power of discov- 
ering truth, the desire of using it for the promotion of 
human happiness, and you have the great end and ob- 
ject of our existence. This is the immaculate model of 
excellence that every human being should fix in the 
chambers of his heart ; which he should place before his 
mind's eye from the rising to the setting of the sun, — 
to strengthen his understanding that he may direct his 
benevolence, and to exhibit to the world the most beau- 
tiful spectacle the world can behold, of consummate vir- 
tue guided by consummate talents. " For some men," 
says Lord Bacon, " think that the gratification of curi- 
osity is the end of knowledge ; some, the love of fame ; 
some, the pleasure of dispute ; some, the necessity of 
supporting themselves by their knowledge : but the real 
use of all knowledge is this, — that we should dedicate 
that reason which was given us by God to the use and 
advantage of man." 



It appeared to me rather singular when I sat down to 
consider this subject, that one man should get up in the 
midst of six hundred others, and tell them how they 
were to conduct their understandings. One man may 
very fairly be supposed to have made greater attain- 
ments in botany or in chemistry than others, because he 
may have dedicated to those sciences a greater portion 
of his time and attention than others have done ; but he 
who speaks of the conduct of the understanding, speaks 
of a science to which every one who hears him has been 
apprenticed as well as himself, and therefore his right of 
instructing can not rest upon the same clear and indis- 
putable grounds. 

Having reared up this edifice of modesty, and stopped 
a little while to admire it, I immediately proceed to 
demolish it by the following reflections : — that to ad- 
vance opinions is not to prescribe laws ; that knowledge 
is only extended and confirmed by this contribution of 
individual sentiments, which every one is free to reject 
or to adopt ; and that nothing would ever be de>ne if 
every person were to enter into a nice calculation of his 
own deficiencies, and the talents and acquisitions of 
others, to which they were contrasted ; that the only 
practical way was, to say what you have to say at once, 
leaving it to time and chance whether your present 
opinions will be strengthened or refuted by further ob- 
servation. I beg leave to renew an observation which 
I made in my first lecture, — that in saying any thing is 
so, I only mean to say J think it is so. I have a rational 
conviction of the difficulty of such subjects ; but to ex- 


press that sense of the difficulty on all occasions would 
be tiresome, and inconsistent with the energy of public 

As the general object of my lecture will be to guard 
against the most ordinary and flagrant errors committed 
in the conduct of the understanding, and as I see no use 
in preserving any order in their enumeration, I shall put 
them down only in the order in which they happen to 
occur to me. 

The first thing to be done in conducting the under- 
standing is precisely the same as in conducting the 
body, — to give it regular and copious supplies of food, 
to prevent that atrophy and marasmus of mind, which 
comes on from giving it no new ideas. It is a mistake 
equally fatal to the memory, the imagination, the powers 
of reasoning, and to every faculty of the mind, to think 
too early that we can live upon our stock of understand- 
ing, — that it is time to leave off business, and make use 
of the acquisitions we have already made, without trou- 
bling ourselves any further to add to them. It is no 
more possible for an idle man to keep together a certain 
stock of knowledge, than it is possible to keep together 
a stock of ice exposed to the meridian sun. Every day 
destroys a fact, a relation, or an inference ; and the only 
method of preserving the bulk and value of the pile is by 
constantly adding to it. 

The prevailing idea with young people has been, the 
incompatibility of labor and genius ; and therefore, from 
the fear of being thought dull, they have thought it nec- 
essary to remain ignorant. I have seen, at school and 
at college, a great many young men completely de- 
stroyed by having been so unfortunate as to produce an 
excellent copy of verses. Their genius being now 
established, all that remained for them to do was, to act 
up to the dignity of the character ; and as this dignity 
consisted in reading nothing new, in forgetting what, 
they had already read, and in pretending to be ac- 
quainted with all subjects by a sort of off-hand exertion 
of talents, they soon collapsed into the most frivolous 
and insignificant of men. " When we have had con- 
tinually before us," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, " the 


great works of art, to impregnate our minds with kin- 
dred ideas, we are then, and not till then, fit to produce 
something of the same species. We behold all about us 
with the eyes of those penetrating observers whose 
works we contemplate ; and our minds, accustomed to 
think the thoughts of the noblest and brightest intellects, 
are prepared for the discovery and selection of all that is 
great and noble in nature. The greatest natural genius 
can not subsist on its own stock : he who resolves never 
to ransack any mind but his own, will be soon reduced 
from mere barrenness to the poorest of all imitations ; — 
he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what 
he has before repeated. When we know the subject 
designed by such men, it will never be difficult to guess 
what kind of work is to be produced." There is but 
one method, and that is hard labor; and a man who will 
not pay that price for distinction, had better at once 
dedicate himself to the pursuits of the fox, — or sport 
with the tangles of Nesera's hair, — or talk of bullocks, 
and glory in the goad ! There are many modes of being 
frivolous, and not a few of being useful ; there is but one 
mode of being intellectually great. 

It would be an extremely profitable thing to draw up 
a short and well-authenticated account of the habits of 
study of the most celebrated writers with whose style of 
literary industry we happen to be most acquainted. It 
would go very far to destroy the absurd and pernicious 
association of genius and idleness, by showing them that 
the greatest poets, orators, statesmen, and historians, — 
men of the most brilliant and imposing talents, — have 
actually labored as hard as the makers of dictionaries 
and the arrangers of indexes ; and that the most ob- 
vious reason why they have been superior to other men 
is, that they have taken more pains than other men. 
Gibbon was in his study every morning, winter and 
summer, at 6 o'clock ; Mr. Burke was the most laborious 
and indefatigable of human beings ; Leibnitz was never 
out of his library ; Pascal killed himself by study ; Cicero 
narrowly escaped death by the same cause ; Milton was 
at his books with as much regularity as a merchant or 
an attornev, — he had mastered all the knowledge of his 

E 8 


time ; so had Homer. Raffaelle lived but thirty-seven 
years ; and in that short space carried the art so far 
beyond what it had before reached, that he appears to 
stand alone as a model to his successors. There are 
instances to the contrary ; but, generally speaking, the 
life of all truly great men has been a life of intense and 
incessant labor. They have commonly passed the first 
half of life in the gross darkness of indigent humility, 
— overlooked, mistaken, contemned, by weaker men, — 
thinking while others slept, reading while others rioted, 
feeling something within them that told them they 
should not always be kept down among the dregs of the 
world ; and then, when their time was come, and some 
little accident has given them their first occasion, they 
have burst out into the light and glory of public life, 
rich with the spoils of time, and mighty in all the labors 
and struggles of the mind. Then do the multitude cry 
out " a miracle of genius !" Yes, he is a miracle of 
genius, because he is a miracle of labor ; because in- 
stead of trusting to the resources of his own single mind, 
he has ransacked a thousand minds ; because he makes 
use of the accumulated wisdom of ages, and takes as his 
point of departure the very last line and boundary to 
which science has advanced ; because it has ever been 
the object of his life to assist every intellectual gift of 
nature, however munificent, and however splendid, with 
every resource that art could suggest, and every atten- 
tion diligence could bestow. 

If we are to read, it is a very important rule in the 
conduct of the understanding, that we should accustom 
the mind to keep the best company, by introducing it 
only to the best books. But there is a sort of vanity 
some men have, of talking of, and reading, obscure half- 
forgotten authors, because it passes as a matter of course, 
that he who quotes authors which are so little read, must 
be completely and thoroughly acquainted with those 
authors which are in every man's mouth. For instance, 
it is very common to quote Shakspeare ; but it makes a 
sort of stare to quote Massinger. I have very little 
credit for being well acquainted with Virgil ; but if I 
quote Silius Italicus, I may stand some chance of being 


reckoned a great scholar. In short, whoever wishes to 
strike out of the great road, and to make a short cut to 
fame, let him neglect Homer, and Virgil, and Horace, 
and Ariosto, and Milton, and, instead of these, read and 
talk of Fracastorius, Sannazarius, Lorenzini, Pastorini, 
and the thirty-six primary sonneteers of Bettinelli ; — 
let him neglect every thing which the suffrage of ages 
has made venerable and grand, and dig out of their 
graves a set of decayed scribblers, whom the silent ver- 
dict of the public has fairly condemned to everlasting 
oblivion. If he complain of the injustice with which 
they have been treated, and call for a new trial with 
loud and importunate clamor, though I am afraid he 
will not make much progress in the estimation of men 
of sense, he will be sure to make some noise in the crowd, 
and to be dubbed a man of very curious and extraordi- 
nary erudition. 

Then there is another piece of foppery which is to be 
cautiously guarded against — the foppery of universality, 
— of knowing all sciences and excelling in all arts, — 
chemistry, mathematics, algebra, dancing, history, rea- 
soning, riding, fencing, Low Dutch, High Dutch, natural 
philosophy, and enough Spanish to talk about Lope de 
Vega : in short, the modern precept of education very 
often is, " Take the Admirable Crichton for your model ; 
I would have you ignorant of nothing !" Now my advice, 
on the contrary, is, to have the courage to be ignorant 
of a great number of things, in order to avoid the 
calamity of being ignorant of every thing. I would 
exact of a young man a pledge that he would never read 
Lope de Vega ; he should pawn to me his honor to ab- 
stain from Bettinelli, and his thirty-five original sonnet- 
eers ; and I would exact from him the most rigid securi- 
ties that I was never to hear any thing about that race 
of penny poets who lived in the reigns of Cosmo and 
Lorenzo di Medici. 

I know a gentleman of the law who has a thorough 
knowledge of fortifications, and whose acquaintance 
with bastions, and counterscarps, and parallels, is per- 
fectly astonishing. How impossible it is for any man 
not professionally engaged in such pursuits to evince a 


thorough acquaintance with them, without lowering him- 
self in the estimation of every man of understanding who 
hears him ! How thoroughly aware must all such men 
be, that the time dedicated to such idle knowledge has 
been lost to the perfection of those mental habits, any 
one of which is better than the most enormous load of 
ill- arranged facts ! 

It is not only necessary that a man should choose the 
best books, to whatever department of knowledge he 
desires to dedicate himself, but it is expedient he should 
aim at the highest departments of knowledge, — that he 
should not content himself, as some men are apt to do, 
throughout the whole of his life, with his school habits 
of acquiring languages and cultivating imagination, but 
that he should attend to the principles of civil policy, — 
the practices by which nations become rich, the rules by 
which their relations with other countries should be 
arranged ; the intellectual nature of man, — of what his 
understanding consists, and what are the great facts 
observable of his active and moral powers. I venerate 
the ancient languages, and our English universities 
where they are preserved, as much as man can do ; but 
I really do not see why at least a co-ordinate importance 
might not be given to subjects of such value as those of 
which I have been speaking. 

In looking to the effects of education upon after-life 
(which is the only mode of determining whether educa- 
tion is good or bad), I do allow it to be of great conse- 
quence that a young man should be a good scholar ; but 
I also beg leave humbly to contend, that it is not with- 
out its beneficial consequences, that the minds of our 
young men may be early awakened to such subjects as 
the philosophy of law, the philosophy of commerce, the 
philosophy of the human mind, and the philosophy of 
political government. If an equal chance be given to 
these subjects and to the classics, if they are all equally 
honored and rewarded, the original diversities and ca- 
prices of nature will determine a sufficient number of 
minds to each channel ; on the contrary, if a young man, 
from his earliest days, hears nothing held in honor and 
estimation but classical reading, — if we have no other 


idea of ignorance than false quantities, and no other idea 
of excellence than mellifluous longs and shorts, the bias 
of his mind is fixed, — his line of distinction is taken ; he 
either despises these sciences because he knows them 
not, or, if he have the ability to discover his deficiencies, 
and the candor to own them, he feels the want of that 
early determination, that instinctive zeal, which no cir- 
cumstance in after-life can ever divert or extinguish. 

We do not want readers, for the number of readers 
seems to be very much upon the increase, and mere 
readers are very often the most idle of human beings. 
There is a sort of feeling of getting through a book, — of 
getting enough out of it, perhaps, for the purpose of con- 
versation, — which is the great cause of this imperfect 
reading, and the forgetfulness which is the consequence 
of it : whereas the ambition of a man of parts should be, 
not to know books, but things ; not to show other men 
that he has read Locke, and Montesquieu, and Bec- 
caria, and Dumont, but to show them that he knows the 
subjects on which Locke and Beccaria and Dumont 
have written. It is no more necessary that a man should 
remember the different dinners and suppers which have 
made him healthy, than the different books which have 
made him wise. Let us see the result of good food in 
a strong body, and the result of great reading in a full 
and powerful mind. 

If you measure the value of study by the insight you 
get into subjects, not by the power of saying you have 
read many books, you will soon perceive that no time is 
so badly saved, as that which is saved by getting through 
a book in a hurry. For if, to the time you have given, 
you had added a little more, the subject would have been 
fixed on your mind, and the whole time profitably employ- 
ed ; whereas, upon your present arrangement, because 
you would not give a little more, you have lost all. Be- 
sides, this is overlooked by rapid and superficial readers, 
— that the best way of reading books with rapidity is, to 
acquire that habit of severe attention to what they con- 
tain, that perpetually confines the mind to the single ob- 
ject it has in view. When you have read enough to 
have acquired the habit of reading without suffering 


your mind to wander, and when you can bring to bear 
upon your subject a great share of previous knowledge, 
you may then read with rapidity : before that, as you 
have taken the wrong road, the faster you proceed the 
more you will be sure to err. Upon this subject of the 
wandering of the mind, I shall read a passage from Mr. 
Locke. " That there is constant succession and flux of 
ideas in our minds, I have observed in the former part 
of this Essay, and every one may take notice of it him- 
self. This, I suppose, may deserve some part of our 
care, in the conduct of our understandings ; and I think 
it may be of great advantage, if we can, by use, get that 
power over our minds as to be able to direct that train of 
ideas, that so, since there will no new ones perpetually 
come into our thoughts by a constant succession, we 
may be able, by choice, so to direct them, that none may 
come in view but such as are pertinent to our present in- 
quiry, and in such order as may be most useful to the dis- 
covery we are upon ; or, at least, if some foreign and un- 
sought ideas will offer themselves, that yet we might be 
able to reject them, and keep them from taking off our 
minds from its present pursuit, and hinder them from run- 
ning away with our thoughts quite from the subject in 

A sincere attachment to truth, moral and scientific, is 
a habit which cures a thousand little infirmities of mind, 
and is as honorable to a man who possesses it, in point 
of character, as it is profitable in point of improvement. 
There is nothing more beautiful in science than to hear 
any man candidly owning his ignorance. It is so little 
the habit of men who cultivate knowledge to do so, — 
they so often have recourse to subterfuge, nonsense, or 
hypothesis, rather than to a plain manly declaration, 
either that they themselves do not understand the sub- 
ject, or that the subject is not understood, — that it is re- 
ally quite refreshing to witness such instances of philo- 
sophical candor, and it creates an immediate preposses- 
sion in favor of the person in whom it is observed. 

Next to this we have the abuse of words, and the fal- 

* Vol. iii. p. 410. 


lacy of associations ; compared with which, all other 
modes of misconducting the understanding are insignifi- 
cant and trivial. What do you mean by what you say ? 
Are you prepared to give a clear account of words which 
you use so positively, and by the help of which you form 
opinions that you seem resolved to maintain at all haz- 
ards ? Perhaps I should astonish many persons by put- 
ting to them such sort of questions : — Do you know what 
is meant by the word nature ? Have you definite no- 
tions of justice ? How do you explain the word chance ? 
What is virtue ? Men are every day framing the rash- 
est propositions on such sort of subjects, and prepared 
to kill and to die in their defense. They never, for a 
single instant, doubt of the meaning of that, which was 
embarrassing to Locke, and in which Leibnitz and Des- 
cartes were never able to agree. Ten thousand people 
have been burned before now, or hanged, for one proposi- 
tion. The proposition has no meaning. Looked into and 
examined in these days, it is absolute nonsense. A man 
quits his country in disgust at some supposed violation 
of its liberties, sells his estates, and settles in America. 
Twenty years afterward, it occurs to him, that he had 
never reflected upon the meaning of the word, — that he 
has packed up his goods and changed his country for a 

Fortitude, justice, and candor, are very necessary in- 
struments of happiness ; but they require time and exer- 
tion. The instruments I am now proposing to you you 
must not despise — gramma?*, definition, and interpreta- 
tion — instruments which overturn the horrible tyranny 
of adjectives and substantives, and free the mind from 
the chains of that logocracy in which it is so frequent- 
ly enslaved, Now have the goodness to observe what I 
mean. If you choose to quarrel with your eldest son, 
do it ; if you are determined to be disgusted with the 
world, and to go and live in Westmoreland, do so ; if 
you are resolved to quit your country and settle in Amer- 
ica, go ! — only, when you have settled the reasons upon 
which you take one or the other of these steps, have the 
goodness to examine whether the words in which those 
reasons are contained have really any distinct meaning; 


and if you find they have not, embrace your first-born, 
forget America, unloose your packages, and remain 
where you are ! 

There are men who suffer certain barren generalities 
to get the better of their understandings, by which they 
try all their opinions, and make them their perpetual 
standards of right and wrong : as thus — Let us beware 
of novelty ; The excesses of the people are always to be 
feared : or these contrary maxims — that there is a 
natural tendency in all governments to encroach upon 
the liberties of the people ; or, that every thing modern 
is probably an improvement of antiquity. Now what 
can the use be of sawing about a set of maxims to which 
there are a complete set of antagonist maxims ? For of 
what use is it to tell me that governors have a tendency 
to encroach upon the liberties of the people ? and is that 
a reason why you should throw yourself systematically 
in opposition to the government ? What you say is 
very true ; what you do is very foolish. For is there 
not another maxim quite as true, that the excesses of the 
people are to be guarded against ? and does not one evil 
a priori require your attention as well as another ? 
The business is, to determine, at any one particular 
period of affairs, which is in danger of being weakened, 
and to act accordingly, like an honest and courageous 
man ; not to lie like a dead weight at one end of the 
beam, without the smallest recollection there is any 
other, and that the equilibrium will be violated alike 
whichever extreme shall preponderate. In the same 
manner, a thing is not good because it is new, or good 
because it is old ; — there is no end of retorting such 
equally true principles : but it is good because it is fit 
for the purpose for which it was intended, and bad be- 
cause it is not. 

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want 
of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves a 
number of obscure men who have only remained obscure 
because their timidity has prevented them from making 
a first effort ; and who, if they could only have been 
induced to begin, would in all probability have gone 
great lengths in the career of fame. The fact is, that 


in order to do any thing in this world worth doing, we- 
must not stand shivering on the bank, and thinking of 
the cold and the danger, but jump in and scramble 
through as well as we can. It will not do to be per- 
petually calculating risks, and adjusting nice chances : 
it did all very well before the Flood, when a man could 
consult his friends upon an intended publication for a 
hundred and fifty years, and then live to see its success 
for six or seven centuries afterward ; but at present a 
man waits, and doubts, and hesitates, and consults his 
brother, and his uncle, and his first cousins, and his 
particular friends, till one fine day he finds that he is 
sixty-five years of age, — that he has lost so much time 
in consulting first cousins and particular friends, that 
he has no more time left to follow their advice. There 
is such little time for over-squeamishness at present, the 
opportunity so easily slips away, the very period of life 
at which a man chooses to venture, if ever, is so con- 
fined, that it is no bad rule to preach up the necessity, in 
such instances, of a little violence done to the feelings, 
and of efforts made in defiance of strict and sober cal- 

With respect to that fastidiousness which disturbs the 
right conduct of the understanding, it must be observed 
that there are two modes of judging of any thing : one, 
by the test of what has actually been done in the same 
way before ; the other, by what we can conceive may be 
done in that way. Now this latter method of mere 
imaginary excellence can hardly be a just criterion, 
because it may be in fact impossible to reduce to prac- 
tice what it is perfectly easy to conceive : no man, 
before he has tried, can tell how difficult it is to manage 
prejudice, jealousy, and delicacy, and to overcome all 
that friction which the world opposes to speculation. 
Therefore, the fair practical rule seems to be, to com- 
pare any exertion, by all similar exertions which have 
preceded it, and to allow merit to any one w T ho has 
improved, or, at least, who has not deteriorated the 
standard of excellence, in his own department of know- 
ledge. Fastidious men are always judging by the other 
standard ; and, as the rest of the understanding can not 


fill up in a century what the imagination can sketch out 
in a moment, they are always in a state of perpetual 
disappointment, and their conversation one uniform 
tenor of blame. At the same time that I say this, I beg 
leave to lift up both my hands against that pernicious 
facility of temper, in the estimation of which every thing 
is charming and delightful. Among the smaller duties 
of life I hardly know any one more important than that 
of not praising where praise is not due. Reputation is 
one of the prizes for which men contend : it is, as Mr. 
Burke calls it, " the cheap defense and ornament of 
nations, and the nurse of manly exertions ;" it produces 
more labor and more talent than twice the wealth of a 
country could ever rear up. It is the coin of genius ; 
and it is the imperious duty of every man to bestow it 
with the most scrupulous justice and the wisest economy. 
I am about to recommend a practice in the conduct 
of the understanding which I dare say will be strongly 
objected to, by many men of the world who may over- 
hear it, and that is, the practice of arguing, or, if that 
be a word in bad repute, of discussing. But then I have 
many limitations to add to such recommendation. It is 
as unfair to compel a man to discuss with you, who 
can not play the game, or does not like it, as it would be 
to compel a person to play at chess with you under 
similar circumstances : neither is such a sort of exercise 
of the mind suitable to the rapidity and equal division 
of general conversation. Such sort of practices are, of 
course, as ill-bred and as absurd as it would be to pull 
out a grammar and dictionary in a general society, and 
to prosecute the study of a language. But when two 
men meet together who love truth, and discuss any 
difficult point with good nature and a respect for each 
other's understandings, it always imparts a high degree 
of steadiness and certainty to our knowledge ; or, what 
is nearly of equal value, and certainly of greater diffi- 
culty, it convinces us of our ignorance. It is an exer- 
cise grossly abused by those who have recourse to it, 
and is very apt to degenerate into a habit of perpetual 
contradiction, which is the most tiresome and most 
disgusting in all the catalogue of imbecilities. It is an 


exercise which timid men dread, — from which irritable 
men ought to abstain ; but which, in my humble opinion, 
advances a man, who is calm enough for it, and strong 
enough for it, Jar beyond any other method of employing 
the mind. Indeed, a promptitude to discuss, is so far a 
proof of a sound mind, that, whenever we feel pain and 
alarm at our opinions being called in question, it is 
almost a certain sign that they have been taken up 
without examination, or that the reasons which once 
determined our judgment have vanished away. 

I direct these observations only to those who are 
capable of discussing ; for there are many who have not 
the quickness and the presence of mind necessary for it, 
and who, in consequence, must be compelled to yield 
their opinions to the last speaker. And there is no 
question, that it is far preferable to remain under the 
influence of moderate errors, than to be bandied about 
for the whole of life from one opinion to another, at 
the pleasure, and for the sport of superior intelligence. 

But other men's understandings are to be made use 
of, in the conduct of your own, in many other methods 
than in that of discussion. Lord Bacon says, that to 
enter into the kingdom of knowledge, we must put on 
the spirit of little children ; and if he means that we are 
to submit to be taught by whoever can, or will teach us, 
it is a habit of mind which leads to very rapid improve- 
ment; because a person who possesses it is always 
putting himself in a train to correct his prejudices, and 
dissolve his unphilosophical associations. The truth is, 
that most men want knowledge, not for itself, but for the 
superiority which knowledge confers ; and the means 
they employ to secure this superiority, are as wrong as 
the ultimate object, for no man can ever end with being 
superior, who will not begin with being inferior. The 
readiest way of founding that empire of talent and 
knowledge which is the mistaken end such men propose 
to themselves of knowledge, is, patiently to gather from 
every understanding that will impart them, the materials 
of your future power and importance. There are some 
sayings in our language about merit being always united 
with modesty, &c. (I suppose because they both begin 


with an m, for alliteration has a great power over 
proverbs, and proverbs over public opinion) ; but I fancy 
that in the majority of instances, the fact is directly the 
reverse, — that talents and arrogance are commonly 
united, and that most clever young men of eighteen or 
nineteen believe themselves to be about the level of 
Demosthenes, or Virgil, or the Admirable Crichton, or 
John Duke of Marlborough : but whatever the fact be 
with respect to modesty, and omitting all the popularity 
and policy of modesty, I am sure modesty is a part of 
talent ; that a certain tendency to hear what others have 
to say, and to give it its due weight and importance, is 
quite as valuable as it is amiable ; that it is a vast 
promoter of knowledge ; and that the contrary habit of 
•general contempt, is a very dangerous practice in the 
conduct of the understanding. It exists, I am afraid, 
commonly in the minds of able men, but they would be 
much better without it. 

As for general skepticism, the only way to avoid it is, 
to seize on some first principles arbitrarily, and not to 
quit them. Take as few as you can help, — about a 
tenth part of what Dr. Reid has taken will suffice, — but 
take some, and proceed to build upon them. As I have 
before mentioned, the leading principle of Descartes' 
philosophy was, Cogito, ergo sum — " I think, therefore I 
exist ;" and having laid this foundation stone, he built an 
enormous building, the ruins of whieh lie scattered up 
and down among the sciences in disordered glory and 
venerable confusion. Some of his disciples, however, 
could never get a single step further ; — they admitted 
their own existence, but could never deduce any one 
single truth from it. One might almost wish that these 
gentlemen had disencumbered themselves of this their 
only idea, by running down steep places, or walking very 
far into profound ponds, rather than that they should 
exhibit such a spectacle of stupidity and perversion. 

Such sort of questions as the credibility of memory, 
and personal identity, are not merely innocent subtilties. 
I admit it is quite impossible in practice to disbelieve 
either the one or the other : but they excite a suspicion 
of the perfect uncertainty of all knowledge : and they 


often keep young men hesitating and quibbling about the 
rudiments of all knowledge, instead of pushing on their 
inquiries with cheerfulness and vigor. I am sure I am 
not stating an ideal evil ; but I know from actual experi- 
ence, that many understandings have been retarded for 
years in their prosecution of solid and valuable knowledge, 
because they could see no evidence for first principles, 
and were unable to prove that which, by the very mean- 
ing of the expression, must be incapable of all proof. 
They considered the whole as an unstable and unphilo- 
sophical fabric, and contracted either an indifference to, or 
contempt for, truth. And if you choose to call all 
knowledge hypothetical, because first principles are 
arbitrarily assumed, you certainly may call it so, if you 
please ; but then I only contend that it does quite as 
well as if it were not hypothetical, because all the various 
errors agree perfectly well together, and produce that 
happiness which is the end of knowledge. 

It is a very wise rule in the conduct of the under- 
standing, to acquire early a correct notion of your own 
peculiar constitution of mind, and to become well ac- 
quainted, as a physician would say, with your idiosyn- 
crasy. Are you an acute man, and see sharply for 
small distances ? or are you a comprehensive man, and 
able to take in wide and extensive views into your mind ? 
Does your mind turn its ideas into wit ? or are you apt 
to take a common-sense view of the objects presented to 
you ? Have you an exuberant imagination, or a correct 
judgment ? Are you quick, or slow ? accurate, or hasty ? 
a great reader, or a great thinker? It is a prodigious 
point gained if any man can find out where his powers 
lie, and what are his deficiencies, — if he can contrive to 
ascertain what Nature intended him for : and such are 
the changes and chances of the world, and so difficult is 
it to ascertain our own understandings, or those of 
others, that most things are done by persons who could 
have done something else better. If you choose to 
represent the various parts in life by holes upon a table, 
of different shapes, — some circular, some triangular, 
some square, some oblong, — and the persons acting these 
parts by bits of wood of similar shapes, we shall generally 


find that the triangular person has got into the square 
hole, the oblong into the triangular, and a square person 
has squeezed himself into the round hole. The officer 
and the office, the doer and the thing done, seldom fit so 
exactly, that we can say they were almost made for 
each other. 

But while I am descanting so minutely upon the con- 
duct of the understanding, and the best modes of ac- 
quiring knowledge, some men may be disposed to ask, 
" Why conduct my understanding with such endless 
care ? and what is the use of so much knowledge ?" 
What is the use of so much knowledge ? — what is the use 
of so much life ! — what are we to do with the seventy 
years of existence allotted to us ? — and how are we to 
live them out to the last ? I solemnly declare that, but 
for the love of knowledge, I should consider the life of 
the meanest hedger and ditcher, as preferable to that of 
the greatest and richest man here present : for the fire 
of our minds is like the fire which the Persians burn in 
the mountains, — it flames night and day, and is immortal, 
and not to be quenched ! Upon something it must act 
and feed, — upon the pure spirit of knowledge, or upon 
the foul dregs of polluting passions. Therefore, when I 
say, in conducting your understanding, love knowledge 
with a great love, with a vehement love, with a love 
coeval with life, what do I say, but love innocence, — 
love virtue, — love purity of conduct, — love that which, 
if you are rich and great, will sanctify the blind fortune 
which has made you so, and make men call it justice,— 
love that which, if you are poor, will render your 
poverty respectable, and make the proudest feel it unjust 
to laugh at the meanness of your fortunes, — love that 
which will comfort you, adorn you, and never quit 
you, — which will open to you the kingdom of thought, 
and all the boundless regions of conception, as an asylum 
against the cruelty, the injustice, and the pain that may 
be your lot in the outer world, — that which will make 
your motives habitually great and honorable, and light 
up in an instant a thousand noble disdains at the very 
thought of meanness and of fraud ! Therefore, if any 
young man here have embarked his life in pursuit of 


knowledge, let him go on without doubting or fearing 
the event ; — let him not be intimidated by the cheerless 
beginnings of knowledge, by the darkness from which 
she springs, by the difficulties which hover around her, 
by the wretched habitations in which she dwells, by the 
want and sorrow which sometimes journey in her train ; 
but let him ever follow her as the Angel that guards 
him, and as the Genius of his life. She will bring him 
out at last into the light of day, and exhibit him to the 
world comprehensive in acquirements, fertile in resources, 
rich in imagination, strong in reasoning, prudent and 
powerful above his fellows, in all the relations and in all 
the offices of life. 



The question I have very often had asked me respect- 
ing the present subject of my lecture is, what has Wit 
to do with Moral Philosophy ? Little or nothing, cer- 
tainly, if Moral Philosophy is merely understood prac- 
tical Moral Philosophy, or Ethics ; but if the term be 
taken as it universally is wherever Moral Philosophy is 
taught, — as in contradistinction to Physical Philosophy, 
or the philosophy which concerns itself with the laws of 
the material world, — then Moral Philosophy will include 
every thing which relates to the human mind — of which 
mind these phenomena of wit and humor are very strik- 
ing peculiarities. But if, though allowed to appertain to 
Moral Philosophy because they appertain to the human 
mind, they shoufd be considered as very frivolous parts 
of that science, this must not, on any account, be allow- 
ed to pass for truth. The feeling of the ridiculous pro- 
duces an immense effect upon human affairs. It is so 
far from being powerless or unimportant, that it has a 
strong tendency to overpower even truth, justice, and all 
those high-born qualities which have the lawful mastery 
of the human mind. 

Such sort of subjects are no less difficult than they are 
important. I may not always speak on them with the 
forms of modesty, but no man can be more thoroughly con- 
vinced that I am, of the difficulty with which such inves- 
tigations are attended, and of the folly of dogmatizing 
upon topics where the best understandings may arrive, 
and have arrived, at very opposite conclusions. In ad- 
dition to this plea for indulgence, it so happens this year 
that I am extremely ill prepared for what I have under- 


taken. To read lectures upon Moral Philosophy is not 
a very easy thing under any circumstances ; — to read 
them before a mixed audience of both sexes, and for the 
first time, are accidents which do not come in diminu- 
tion of that difficulty. These difficulties are best over- 
come by a little practice. The same indulgence should 
be extended to young lecturers and young professors that 
is extended to the young of all other animals, — who can 
not reasonably be supposed to have arrived at the top of 
their cunning, or to have reached the perfection of their 
strength. I shall only advertise my hearers, that when 
I have finished this lecture I have not finished this sub- 
ject ; — I shall have a great deal more to say upon it in 
my next lecture, and the two must be taken together, in 
order to analyze the ridiculous, and, perhaps, as some 
evil-disposed persons may say, to exemplify it. 

" Wit," says Dr. Barrow, " is a thing so subtile, so ver- 
satile, and so multiform, — appearing in so many shapes, 
so many postures, and so many garbs, — so variously ap- 
prehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seem- 
eth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion there- 
of than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the 
figure of the fleeting air. Sometime it lieth in pat allu- 
sion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a 
trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale ; — sometimes 
it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage of the 
ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound ; — 
sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expres- 
sion ; — sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude ; — • 
sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart an- 
swer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in 
cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objection ; 
sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a 
tart irony, a lusty hyperbole, a startling metaphor, a 
plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute non- 
sense ; — sometimes a scenical representation of persons 
or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or ges- 
ture, passeth for it ; — sometimes an affected simplicity, 
sometimes a presumptuous blunt ness, giveth it being ; — 
sometimes it ariseth only from a lucky hitting upon what 


is strange ; — often it consisteth in one knows not what, 
and ariseth one knows not how : its ways are unaccount- 
able and inexplicable, being answerable to the number- 
less rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in 
short, a manner of speaking out of the plain way, which, 
by an uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth amuse 
the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some 
delight. It raiseth admiration, as signifying a nimble sa- 
gacity of apprehension, a special felicity of invention, a 
vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more than vulgar. 
It seemeth to argue a rare quickness of parts that can 
produce such applicable conceits, a notable skill that can 
dexterously accommodate them to the purpose before 
him, together with a lively briskness of humor, not apt 
to damp those sportful flashes of imagination. It pro- 
cures delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rarity, by 
diverting the mind from its road of serious thoughts, by 
instilling gayety and airiness of spirit, and by seasoning 
matters, otherwise distasteful and insipid, with an un- 
usual and a grateful twang." This is Dr. Barrow's 
famous definition of wit, — which is very witty, and 
nothing else ! and in which the author has managed as 
a man would do, who should take a degree in music by 
singing a song, or in medicine by healing a surfeit. He 
has exemplified his subject instead of explaining it ; and 
given you a specimen, instead of a solution, of wit. It 
is surprising what very little has been written in the 
English language upon this curious subject. Congreve 
has written upon it in the same witty manner as Barrow, 
without throwing the smallest light upon the nature of 
wit. Cowley says, 

" Tell me, oh tell, what kind of thing is -wit, 
Thou who master art of it ? 
A thousand different shapes it bears, 
Comely in thousand shapes appears. 
Yonder we see it plain ; and here 'tis now, 
Like spirits, in a place, we know not how." 

And so he goes on, with a string of witty allusions, for 
twenty stanzas, in an ode which Johnson calls inimita- 
ble, and which, as a mere piece of poetry of the school 


of the metaphysical poets, certainly is so ; but has 
nothing to do with a serious explanation of the subject. 
Dryden says of wit, that it is a propriety of thoughts and 
words, or thoughts and words elegantly adapted to the 
subject ; but there is a propriety of thoughts and words 
in one of Blair's Sermons, which I never yet heard 
praised for their wit. And the thoughts and words are 
elegantly adapted to the subject in Campbell's " Pleas- 
ures of Hope," which is something much better than a 
witty poem. Pope says of wit, 

" True wit is nature to advantage drest T 
Oft thought before, but ne'er so -well exprest." 

Then the Philippics of Cicero, the Orations of Demos- 
thenes, are witty ; Caesar's Commentaries are witty ; 
Massillon is one of the greatest wits that ever lived ; the 
Oraisons funebres of Bossuet are prodigies of facetious- 
ness. Sir Richard Blackmore's notion of wit is, that it 
is a series of high and exalted ferments. It very possibly 
may be ; but, not exactly comprehending what is meant 
by " a series of high and exalted ferments," I do not think 
myself bound to waste much time in criticizing the meta- 
physics of this learned physician. 

The first definition of wit worth noticing is that of 
Mr. Locke, which I shall read to you. " How much the 
imperfection of accurately discriminating ideas one from 
another, lies either in the dullness or faults of the organs 
of sense, — or want of acuteness, exercise, or attention in 
the understanding, — or hastiness and precipitancy, nat- 
ural to some tempers, — I will not here examine : it suf- 
ficeth to take notice, that this is one of the operations 
that the mind may reflect on and observe in itself. It is 
of that consequence to its other knowledge, that, so far 
as this faculty is in itself dull, or not rightly made use of, 
for the distinguishing one thing from another, so far our 
notions are confused, and our reason and judgment dis- 
turbed or misled. If, in having our ideas in the memory 
ready at hand, consists quickness of parts, — in this of 
having them unconfused, and being able nicely to dis- 
tinguish one thing from another, where there is but the 


least difference, consists, in a great measure, the exact- 
ness of judgment and clearness of reason, which is to be 
observed in one man above another. And hence, per- 
haps, may be given some reason for that common obser- 
vation, that men who have a great deal of wit, and 
prompt memories, have not always the clearest judg- 
ment or deepest reason : for wit lying mostly in the as- 
semblage of ideas, and putting those together with quick- 
ness and variety wherein can be found any resemblance 
or congruity, whereby to make up pleasant pictures and 
agreeable visions in the fancy ; judgment, on the con- 
trary, lies quite on the other side, in separating carefully, 
one from another, ideas wherein can be found the least 
difference, — thereby to avoid being misled by similitude, 
and by affinity to take one thing for another. This is a 
way of proceeding quite contrary to metaphor and allusion, 
wherein, for the most part, lies that entertainment and 
pleasantry of wit which strikes so lively on the fancy, 
and therefore is so acceptable to all people, — because its 
beauty appears at first sight, and there is required no 
labor of thought to examine what truth or reason there 
is in it. The mind, without looking any further, rests 
satisfied with the agreeableness of the picture, and the 
gayety of the fancy ; and it is a kind of an affront to go 
about to examine it by the severe rules of truth and good 
reason, whereby it appears that it consists in something 
that is not perfectly conformable to them."* Now this 
notion of wit, — that it consists in putting those ideas to- 
gether with quickness and variety wherein can be found 
any resemblance or congruity, in order to excite pleas- 
ure in the mind, — is a little too comprehensive, for it 
comprehends both eloquence and poetry. In the first 
place, we must exclude the idea of their being put to- 
gether quickly, as this part of the definition applies only 
to colloquial wit. The " Avare" and the " Tartuffe" of 
Moliere, would be witty even though we knew each of 
those plays had taken the author a year to compose. 
But as for the resemblance and congruity, there is a re- 
semblance and congruity in the well-known picture Mr. 

* Works, voL i. p. 60. 


Burke has drawn of the Queen of France ; but nobody 
can with any propriety call it wittf without degrading it. 
The fact is, that the combinations of ideas in which there 
is resemblance and congruity, will as often produce the 
sublime and the beautiful, as well as the witty ; — a cir- 
cumstance to which Mr. Locke does not appear to have 
attended, in the very short and cursory notice he has 
taken of wit. Addison's papers in the " Spectator" on 
this subject are more dedicated to the establishment of a 
good taste in wit, than to an analysis of its nature. He 
adds to this definition, by way of explanation, that it must 
be such a resemblance as excites delight and surprise in 
the reader ; but this still leaves the account of wit as it 
found it, without discriminating the witty from the sub- 
lime and the beautiful, for many sublime and beautiful 
passages in poetry entirely correspond with this defini- 
tion of wit. 

" He scarce had ceas'd, when the superior Fiend 
"Was moving toward the shore : his ponderous shield, 
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round, 
Behind him cast ; the broad circumference 
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb 
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views 
At evening from the top of Fesole, 
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands, 
Eivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe. 
His spear — to equal which the tallest pine 
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast 
Of some great ammiral, were but a wand — 
He walk'd with to support uneasy steps 
Over the burning marie." 

In this picture there certainly is an assemblage of very 
grand and very beautiful images, exciting delight and sur- 
prise, and gathered together expressly for their resem- 
blance ; yet no effect can be more distinct from the feel- 
ing of wit than the effect produced by these lines. 
" Wit," says Johnson, " may be more rigorously and 
philosophically considered as a kind of concordia discors 
— a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of 
occult resemblances in things apparently unlike ;" but 
if this be true, then the discovery of the resemblance 
between diamond and charcoal, between acidification 


and combustion, are pure pieces of wit, and full of the 
most ingenious and exalted pleasantry. 

It is very little worth while to stop to examine what 
Lord Karnes has said upon the subject of wit and 
humor: he has said so very little, and that little in so 
very hasty a manner, that there is no occasion to delay 
the progress of the investigation by dwelling on his 

The best account in our language of wit and humor 
(as far as I know) is to be found in the first volume of 
Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric. I say the best, 
though I must take the liberty of saying that there 
appears to me to be very material defects in it. In the 
first place he seems to make precisely the same mistake 
which all the other definers and describers of wit have 
done. " Wit," he says, " is that which excites agreeable 
surprise in the mind, by the strange assemblage of re- 
lated images presented to it." Now, this account of 
wit, as I have before remarked more than* once, is too 
extensive, and includes the sublime and the beautiful. 
He then adds, that " wit effects its objects three ways : 
first, in debasing things pompous ; next in aggrandizing 
things mean ; thirdly, by setting ordinary objects (by 
means not only remote, but apparently contrary) in a 
particular and uncommon point of view." If this three- 
fold division be meant as a distinguishing criterion of the 
operations of wit, it fails ; for eloquence effects all these 
three objects as well as wit : and if it be meant as an ex- 
haustive analysis of modes of wit, it is extremely incom- 
plete ; for wit may find similitudes for, and relations be- 
tween, great objects without debasing them, and do the 
same with little objects without exalting them. I may 
find a hundred ingenious points of resemblance between 
a black beetle and a birchen broom, without adding much 
dignity either to the insect or the instrument. I mention 
these objections to Dr. Campbell's Essay because it is 
my duty to discriminate, though I repeat again, that, as 
far as I know, and upon the whole, it is the best account 
of these subjects extant in the English language. 

Now to begin at the beginning of this discussion, it 
is plain that wit concerns itself with the relations which 


subsist between our ideas : and the first observation 
which occurs to any man turning his attention to this 
subject is, that it can not, of course, concern itself with 
all the relations which subsist between all our ideas ; 
for then every proposition would be witty ; — The rain 
wets me through, — Butter is spread upon bread, — would 
be propositions replete with mirth ; and the moment the 
mind observed the plastic and diffusible nature of butter, 
and the excellence of bread as a substratum, it would 
become enchanted with this flash of facetiousness. 
Therefore, the first limit to be affixed to that observation 
of relations, which produces the feeling of wit, is, that 
they must be relations which excite surprise. If you 
tell me that all men must die, I am very little struck 
with what you say, because it is not an assertion very 
remarkable for its novelty ; but if you were to say that 
man was like a time-glass, — that both must run out, and 
both render up their dust, I should listen to you with 
more attention, because I should feel something like sur- 
prise at the sudden relation you had struck out between 
two such apparently dissimilar ideas as a man and a 

Surprise is so essential an ingredient of wit, that no 
wit will bear repetition ; — at least the original electrical 
feeling produced by any piece of wit can never be re- 
newed. There is a sober sort of approbation succeeds 
at hearing it the second time, w T hich is as different from 
its original rapid, pungent volatility, as a bottle of 
champagne that has been open three days is, from one 
that has at that very instant emerged from the darkness 
of the cellar. To hear that the top of Mont Blanc is 
like an umbrella, though the relation be new to me, is 
not sufficient to excite surprise ; the idea is so very ob- 
vious, it is so much within the reach of the most ordinary 
understandings, that I can derive no sort of pleasure from 
the comparison. The relation discovered, must be some- 
thing remote from all the common tracks and sheep-walks 
made in the mind ; it must not be a comparison of color 
with color, and figure with figure, or any comparison 
which, though individually new, is specifically stale, and 
to which the mind has been in the habit of making many 


similar ; but it must be something removed from com- 
mon apprehension, distant from the ordinary haunts of 
thought, — things which are never brought together in the 
common events of life, and in which the mind has dis- 
covered relations by its own subtilty and quickness. 

Now, then, the point we have arrived at, at present, 
in building up our definition of wit, is, that it is the 
discovery of those relations in ideas which are calculated 
to excite surprise. But a great deal must be taken 
away from this account of wit before it is sufficiently 
accurate ; for, in the first place, there must be no feeling 
or conviction of the utility of the relation so discovered. 
If you go to see a large cotton-mill, the manner in which 
the large w T ater- wheel below, works the little parts of the 
machinery seven stories high, the relation which one 
bears to another, is extremely surprising to a person 
unaccustomed to mechanics ; but, instead of feeling as 
you feel at a piece of wit, you are absorbed in the con- 
templation of the utility and importance of such rela- 
tions, — there is a sort of rational approbation mingled 
with your surprise, which makes the whole feeling very 
different from that of wit. At the same time, if we 
attend very accurately to our feelings, we shall perceive 
that the discovery of any surprising relation whatever, 
produces some slight sensation of wit. When first the 
manner in which a steam-engine opens and shuts its 
own valves is explained to me, or when I at first perceive 
the ingenious and complicated contrivances of any piece 
of machinery, the surprise that I feel at the discovery of 
these connections has always something in it which 
resembles the feeling of wit, though that is very soon 
extinguished by others of a very different nature. 
Children, who view the different parts of a machine not 
so much with any notions of its utility, feel something 
still more like the sensation of wit when first they per- 
ceive the effect which one part produces upon another. 
Show a child of six years old, that, by moving the treadle 
of a knife-grinder's machine, you make the large wheel 
turn round, or that by pressing the spring of a repeating 
watch you make the watch strike, and you probably 
raise up a feeling in the child's mind precisely similar to 


that of wit. There is a mode of teaching children 
geography by disjointed parts of a wooden map, which 
they fit together. I have no doubt that the child, in 
finding the kingdom or republic which fits into a great 
hole in the wooden sea, feels exactly the sensation of wit. 
Every one must remember that fitting the inviting pro- 
jection of Crim Tartary into the Black Sea was one of 
the greatest delights of their childhood ; and almost all 
children are sure to scream with pleasure at the dis- 

The relation between ideas which excite surprise, in 
order to be witty, must not excite any feeling of the 
beautiful. " The good man,'*' says a Hindoo epigram, 
" goes not upon enmity, but rewards with kindness the 
very being who injures him. So the sandal- wood, while 
it is felling, imparts to the edge of the axe its aromatic 
flavor." Now here is a relation which would be witty 
if it were not beautiful : the relation discovered betwixt 
the falling sandal- wood, -and the returning good for evil, 
is a new relation which excites surprise , but the mere 
surprise at the relation, is swallowed up by the con- 
templation of the moral beauty of the thought, which 
throws the mind into a more solemn and elevated mood 
than is compatible with the feeling of wit. 

It would not be a difficult thing to do (and if the limits 
of my lecture allowed I would do it) to select from 
Cowley and Waller a suite of passages, in order to show 
the effect of the beautiful in destroying the feeling of wit, 
and vice versa. First, I would take a passage purely 
witty, in which the mind merely contemplated the 
singular and surprising relation of the ideas ; next, a 
passage where the admixture of some beautiful senti- 
ment, — the excitation of some slight moral feeling, — . 
arrested the mind from the contemplation of the relation 
between the ideas ; then, a passage in which the beauti- 
ful overpowered still more the facetious, till, at last, it 
was totally destroyed. 

If the relation between the ideas, to produce wit, must 
not be mingled with the beautiful, still less must they be 
so with the sublime. In that beautiful passage in Mr. 
Campbell's poem of ( ' Lochiel," the wizard repeats these 



verses, — which were in every one's mouth when first 
the poem was written : — 

" Lochiel ! Lochiel ! though my eyes I should seal, 
Man can not keep secret what God would reveal. 
Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore, 
And the coming events cast their shadows before." 1 

Now this comparison of the dark uncertain sort of pre- 
science of future events implied by the gift of second 
sight, and the notice of an approaching solid body by the 
previous approach of its shadow, contains a new and 
striking relation ; but it is not witty, nor would it ever 
have been considered as witty, if expressed in a more 
concise manner, and with the rapidity of conversation, 
because it inspires feelings of a much higher cast than 
those of wit, and, instead of suffering the mind to dwell 
upon the mere relation of ideas, fills it with a sort of 
mysterious awe, and gives an air of sublimity to the 
fabulous power of prediction. Every one knows the 
Latin line on the miracle at the marriage-supper in Cana 
of Galilee, — on the conversion of water into wine. 
The poet says, 

" The modest water saw its God, and blusKdF 

Now, in my mind, that sublimity w T hich some persons 
discover in this passage is destroyed by its wit; it 
appears to me witty, and not sublime. I have no great 
feelings excited by it, and can perfectly well stop to 
consider the mere relation of ideas. I hope I need not 
add, that the line, if it produce the effect of a witty con- 
ceit, and not of a sublime image, is perfectly misplaced 
and irreverent : the intent, however, of the poet, was un- 
doubtedly to be serious. In the same manner, whenever 
the mind is not left to the mere surprise excited by the 
relation of ideas, but when that relation excites any 
powerful emotion — as those of the sublime and beautiful, 
or any high passion — as anger or pity, or any train of 
reflections upon the utility of the relations, the feeling 
of wit is always diminished or destroyed. It seems to 
be occasioned bv those relations of ideas which excite 


surprise, and surprise alone. Whenever relations excite 
any other strong feeling as well as surprise, the wit is 
either destroyed, diminished, or the two co-existent feel- 
ings of wit and the other emotion may, by careful reflec- 
tion, be distinguished from each other. I may be very 
wrong (for these subjects are extremely difficult), but I 
know no single passage in any author which is at once 
beautiful and witty, or sublime and witty. I know 
innumerable passages which are intended to be beautiful 
or sublime, and which are merely witty ; and I know 
many passages in which the relation of ideas is very new 
and surprising, and which are not witty because they are 
beautiful and sublime. Lastly, when the effect of wit 
is heightened by strong sense and useful truth, we may 
perceive in the mind what part of the pleasure arises 
from the mere relation of ideas, what from the utility of 
the precept ; and many instances might be produced, 
where the importance and utility of the thing said, 
prevents the mind from contemplating the mere relation, 
and considering it as wit. For example : in that apoph- 
thegm of Rochefoucault, that hypocrisy is a homage 
which vice renders to virtue, the image is witty, but all 
attention to the mere wit is swallowed up in the justness 
and value of the observation. So that I think I have 
some color for saying, that wit is produced by those 
relations between ideas which excite surprise, and sur- 
prise only. Observe, 1 am only defining the causes of a 
certain feeling in the mind called wit ; — I can no more 
define the feeling itself, than I can define the flavor of 
venison. We all seem to partake of one and the other, 
with a very great degree of satisfaction ; but why each 
feeling is what it is, and nothing else, I am sure I can 
not pretend to determine. 

Louis XIV. was exceedingly molested by the solicita- 
tions of a general officer at the levee, and cried out, loud 
enough to be overheard, " That gentleman is the most 
troublesome officer in the whole army." " Your Majes- 
ty's enemies have said the same thing more than once," 
was the answer. The wit of this answer consists in the 
sudden relation discovered in his assent to the King's in- 
vective and his own defense. By admitting the King's 


observation, he seems, at first sight, to be subscribing to 
the imputation against him ; whereas, in reality, he 
effaces it by this very means. A sudden relation is dis- 
covered where none was suspected. Voltaire, in speak- 
ing of the effect of epithets in weakening style, said, that 
the adjectives were the greatest enemies of the substan- 
tives, though they agreed in gender, number, and in 
cases. Here, again, it is very obvious that a relation is 
discovered which, upon first observation, does not appear 
to exist. These instances may be multiplied to any ex- 
tent. A gentleman at Paris, who lived very unhappily 
with his wife, used, for twenty years together, to pass 
his evenings at the house of another lady, who was very 
agreeable, and drew together a pleasant society. His 
wife died ; and his friends all advised him to marry the 
lady in whose society he had found so much pleasure. 
He said, no, he certainly should not, for that if he mar- 
ried her, he should not know where to spend his evenings. 
Here we are suddenly surprised with the idea that the 
method proposed of securing his comfort may possibly 
prove the most effectual method of destroying it. At 
least, to enjoy the pleasantry of the reply, we view it 
through his mode of thinking, who had not been very 
fortunate in the connection established by his first mar- 
riage. I have, in consequence of the definition I have 
printed of wit in the cards of the Institution, passed one of 
the most polemical weeks that ever I remember to have 
spent in my life. I think, however, that if my words 
are understood in their fair sense, I am not wrong. I 
have said, surprising relation between ideas, — not between 
facts. The difference is very great. A man may tell 
me he sees a fiery meteor on the surface of the sea: he has 
no merit in the discovery, — it is no extraordinary act of 
mind in him, — any one who has eyes can ascertain this 
relation of facts as well, if it really exist ; but to discover 
a surprising relation in ideas, is an act of power in the 
discoverer, in which, if his wit be good, he exceeds the 
greater part of mankind : so that the very terms I have 
adopted, imply comparison and superiority of mind. The 
discovery of any relation of ideas exciting pure surprise 
involves the notion of such superiority, and enhances 


the surprise. To discover relations between facts ex- 
citing pure surprise, involves the notion of no such 
superiority ; for any man could ascertain that a calf had 
two heads if it had two heads : therefore, I again repeat, 
let any man show me that which is an acknowledged 
proof of wit, and I believe I could analyze the pleasure 
experienced from it into surprise, partly occasioned by 
the unexpected relation established, partly by the dis- 
play of talent in discovering it ; and, putting this posi- 
tion synthetically, I would say, whenever there is a 
superior act of intelligence in discovering a relation 
between ideas, which relation excites surprise and no 
other high emotion, the mind will have the feeling of 
wit. Why is it not witty to find a gold watch and 
seals hanging upon a hedge ? Because it is a mere re- 
lation of facts discovered without any effort of mind, 
and not (as I have said in my definition) a relation 
of ideas. Why is it not witty to discover the relation 
between the moon and the tides ? Because it raises 
other notions than those of mere surprise. Why are 
not all the extravagant relations in Garagantua witty ? 
Because they are merely odd and extravagant ; and 
mere oddity and extravagance is too easy to excite sur- 
prise. Why is it witty, in one of Addison's plays, 
where the undertaker reproves one of his mourners for 
laughing at a funeral, and says to him, " You rascal, 
you ! I have been raising your wages for these two years 
past upon condition that you should appear more sorrow- 
ful, and the higher wages you receive the happier you 
look !" Here is a relation between ideas the discovery 
of which implies superior intelligence, and excites no 
other emotion than surprise. 

It is imagined that wit is a sort of inexplicable visita- 
tion, that it comes and goes with the rapidity of light- 
ning, and that it is quite as unattainable as beauty or 
just proportion. I am so much of a contrary way of 
thinking, that I am convinced a man might sit down as 
systematically, and as successfully, to the study of wit, 
as he might to the study of mathematics : and I would 
answer for it, that, by giving up only six hours a day to 
being witty, he should come on prodigiously before mid- 


summer, so that his friends should hardly know him 
again. For what is there to hinder the mind from grad- 
ually acquiring a habit of attending to the lighter rela- 
tions of ideas in which wit consists ? Punning grows 
upon every body, and punning is the wit of words. I do 
not mean to say that it is so easy to acquire a habit of 
discovering new relations in ideas as in words, but the 
difficulty is not so much greater as to render it insuper- 
able to habit. One man is unquestionably much better 
calculated for it by nature than another : but association, 
which gradually makes a bad speaker a good one, might 
give a man wit who had it not, if any man chose to be 
so absurd as to sit down to acquire it. 

I have mentioned puns. They are, I believe, what I 
have denominated them — the wit of words. They are 
exactly the same to words which wit is to ideas, and 
consist in the sudden discovery of relations in language. 
A pun, to be perfect in its kind, should contain two dis- 
tinct meanings ; the one common and obvious ; the 
other, more remote : and in the notice which the mind 
takes of the relation between these two sets of words, 
and in the surprise which that relation excites, the pleas- 
ure of a pun consists. Miss Hamilton, in her book on 
Education, mentions the instance of a boy so very neg- 
lectful, that he could never be brought to read the word 
patriarchs ; but whenever he met with it he always 
pronounced it par-tridges. A friend of the writer ob- 
served to her, that it could hardly be considered as a 
mere piece of negligence, for it appeared to him that the 
boy, in calling them partridges, was making game of the 
patriarchs. Now here are two distinct meanings con- 
tained in the same phrase : for to make game of the 
patriarchs is to laugh at them ; or to make game of 
them is, by a very extravagant and laughable sort of 
ignorance of words, to rank them among pheasants, 
partridges, and other such delicacies, which the law 
takes under its protection and calls game : and the 
whole pleasure derived from this pun consists in the 
sudden discovery that two such different meanings are 
referable to one form of expression. I have very little to 
say about puns ; they are in very bad repute, and so 


they ought to be. The wit of language is so miserably 
inferior to the wit of ideas, that it is very deservedly 
driven out of good company. Sometimes, indeed, a pun 
makes its appearance which seems for a moment to 
redeem its species ; but we must not be deceived by 
them : it is a radically bad race of wit. By unremitting 
persecution, it has been at last got under, and driven 
into cloisters, — from whence it must never again be 
suffered to emerge into the light of the world. One in- 
valuable blessing produced by the banishment of pun- 
ning is, an immediate reduction of the number of wits. 
It is a wit of so low an order, and in which some sort 
of progress is so easily made, that the number of those 
endowed with the gift of wit would be nearly equal to 
those endowed with the gift of speech. The condition 
of putting together ideas in order to be witty operates 
much in the same salutary manner as the condition of 
finding rhymes in poetry ; — it reduces the number of 
performers to those who have vigor enough to over- 
come incipient difficulties, and makes a sort of provision 
that that which need not be done at all, should be done 
well whenever it is done. For we may observe, that 
mankind are always more fastidious about that which is 
pleasing, than they are about that which is useful. A 
commonplace piece of morality is much more easily 
pardoned than a commonplace piece of poetry or of wit ; 
because it is absolutely necessary for the well-being of 
society that the rules of morality should be frequently re- 
peated and enforced ; and though in any individual 
instance the thing may be badly done, the sacred neces- 
sity of the practice itself, atones in some degree for the 
individual failure : but as there is no absolute necessity 
that men should be either wits or poets, we are less in- 
clined to tolerate their mediocrity in superfluities. If 
a man have ordinary chairs and tables, no one notices 
it ; but if he stick vulgar, gaudy pictures on his walls, 
which he need not have at all, every one laughs at him 
for his folly. 

The wit of irony consists in the surprise excited by 
the discovery of that relation wich exists between the 
apparent praise and the real blame; or, if it be good- 


natured irony, between the apparent blame and the real 
praise. I shall quote a noble specimen of irony from the 
preface of " Killing no Murder :" — 


" May it please your Highness, 

" How I have spent some hours of the leisure your 
Highness has been pleased to give me, this following 
paper will give your Highness an account. How you 
will please to interpret it, 1 can not tell ; but I can with 
confidence say, my intention in it is, to procure your 
Highness that justice nobody yet does you, and to let the 
people see, the longer they defer it, the greater injury 
they do both themselves and you. To your Highness 
justly belongs the honor of dying for the people : and it 
can not choose but be an unspeakable consolation to you 
in the last moments of your life, to consider, with how 
much benefit to the world you are like to leave it. It is 
then only, my Lord, the titles you now usurp will be 
truly yours. You will then be indeed the deliverer of 
your country, and free it from a bondage little inferior to 
that from which Moses delivered his. You will then be 
that true reformer which you would now be thought ; re- 
ligion shall be then restored, liberty asserted, and parlia- 
ments have those privileges they have sought for. We 
shall then hope that other laws will have place beside 
those of the sword, and that justice shall be otherwise de- 
fined than the will and pleasure of the strongest ; and we 
shall then hope men will keep oaths again, and not have 
the necessity of being false and perfidious to preserve 
themselves, and be like their ruler. All this we hope 
from your Highness's happy expiration, who are the true 
father of your country ; for while you live, we can call 
nothing ours, and it is from your death that we hope for 
our inheritances. Let this consideration arm and fortify 
your Highness's mind against the fears of death, and the 
terrors of your evil conscience, — that the good you will 
do by your death, will somewhat balance the evils of 
your life. And if, in the black catalogue of high male- 
factors, few can be found that have lived more to the 


affliction and disturbance of mankind, than your High- 
ness has done ; yet your greatest enemies will not deny, 
that there are likewise as few that have expired more to 
the universal benefit of mankind, than your Highness is 
like to do. To hasten this great good, is the chief end 
of my writing this paper ; and if it have the effects I hope 
it will, your Highness will quickly be out of the reach of 
men's malice, and your enemies will only be able to 
wound you in your memory, which strokes you will not 
feel. That your Highness may be speedily in this secu- 
rity, is the universal wish of your grateful country ; this 
is the desire and prayers of the good and of the bad, and, 
it may be, is the only thing wherein all sects and factions 
do agree in their devotion, and it is our only common 
prayer! But among all that put in their request and 
supplication for your Highness's speedy deliverance from 
all earthly troubles, none is more assiduous nor more fer- 
vent than he, that, with the rest of the nation, hath the 
honor to be (may it please your Highness), 

" Your Highness's present slave and vassal." 

Now, through the whole of this passage, there is an ap- 
parent praise of the person to whom it is addressed, and 
a real censure of that person. The surprise excited by 
this union of visible eulogium and real satire constitutes 
the pleasure we receive from the passage. 

A sarcasm (which is another species of wit) generally 
consists in the obliquity of the invective. It must not 
be direct assertion, but something established by infer- 
ence and analogy ; — something which the mind does not 
at first perceive, but in the discovery of which it experi- 
ences the pleasure of surprise. A true sarcasm is like a 
sword-stick, — it appears, at first sight, to be much more 
innocent than it really is, till, all of a sudden, there leaps 
something out of it — sharp, and deadly, and incisive — 
which makes you tremble and recoil. 

I have insisted, in the beginning of my lecture, on the 
great power of the ridiculous over the opinions of man- 
kind ; including in that term wit, humor, and every other 
feeling which has laughter for its distinguishing charac- 


I know of no principle which it is of more importance 
to fix in the minds of young people than that of the most 
determined resistance to the encroachments of ridicule. 
Give up to the world, and to the ridicule with which the 
world enforces its dominion, every trifling question of 
manner and appearance : it is to toss courage and firm- 
ness to the winds, to combat with the mass upon such 
subjects as these. But learn from the earliest days to 
inure your principles against the perils of ridicule : you 
can no more exercise your reason, if you live in the con- 
stant dread of laughter, than you can enjoy your life, if 
you are in the constant terror of death. If you think it 
right to differ from the times, and to make a stand for 
any valuable point of morals, do it, however rustic, how- 
ever antiquated, however pedantic it may appear ; — do 
it, not for insolence, but seriously and grandly, — as a 
man who wore a soul of his own in his bosom, and did 
not wait till it was breathed into him by the breath of 
fashion. Let men call you mean, if you know you are 
just ; hypocritical, if you are honestly religious ; pusillan- 
imous, if you feel that you are firm : resistance soon con- 
verts unprincipled wit into sincere respect ; and no after 
time can tear from those feelings which every man car- 
ries within him who has made a noble and successful ex- 
ertion in a virtuous cause. 



Hobbes defines laughter to be " a sudden glory, arising 
from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, 
by comparison with infirmity of others, or our own 
former infirmity." By infirmity he must mean, I pre- 
sume, marked and decided inferiority, whether acciden- 
tal and momentary, or natural and permanent. He 
can not, of course, mean by it, what we usually denomi- 
nate infirmity of body or mind ; for it must be obvious, 
at the first moment, that humor has a much wider range 
than this. If we were to see a little man walking in the 
streets with a hat half as big as an umbrella, we should 
laugh ; and that laughter certainly could not be ascribed 
to the infirmities either of his body or mind : for his 
diminutive figure, without his disproportionate hat, I 
shall suppose by hypothesis, to be such as would excite 
no laughter at all ; — and, indeed, an extraordinary large 
man, with a hat such as is worn by boys of twelve years 
old, would be an object quite as ludicrous. 

Taking, therefore, the language of Hobbes to mean 
the sudden discovery of any inferiority, it will be very 
easy to show that such is not the explanation of that 
laughter excited by humor : for I may discover suddenly 
that a person has lost half-a-crown, — or, that his tooth 
aches, — or, that his house is not so well built, or his coat 
not so well made, as mine ; and yet none of these 
discoveries give me the slightest sensation of the humor- 
ous. If it be suggested that these proofs of inferiority 
are very slight, the theory of Hobbes is still more 
weakened, by recurring to greater instances of inferiori- 
ty : for the sudden information that any one of my 


acquaintance has broken his leg, or is completely ruined 
in his fortunes, has decidedly very little of humor in 
it ; — at least it is not very customary to be thrown into 
paroxysms of laughter by such sort of intelligence. It 
is clear, then, that there are many instances of the 
sudden discovery of inferiorities and infirmities in others, 
which excite no laughter; and, therefore, pride is not the 
explanation of laughter excited by the humorous. It is 
true, the object of laughter is always inferior to us ; but 
then the converse is not true, — that every one who is 
inferior to us is an object of laughter : therefore, as some 
inferiority is ridiculous, and other inferiority not ridicu- 
lous, we must, in order to explain the nature of the 
humorous, endeavor to discover the discriminating cause. 
This discriminating cause is incongruity, or the con- 
junction of objects and circumstances not usually com- 
bined, — and the conjunction of which is either useless, 
or w 7 hat in the common estimation of men would be 
considered as rather troublesome, and not to be desired. 
To see a young officer of eighteen years of age come 
into company in full uniform, and with such a wig as is 
worn by grave and respectable clergymen advanced in 
years, would make every body laugh, because it certainly 
is a very unusual combination of objects, and such as 
would not atone for its novelty by any particular purpose 
of utility to which it was subservient. It is a complete 
instance of incongruity. Add ten years to the age of 
this incongruous officer, the incongruity would be very 
faintly diminished; — make him eighty years of age, and 
a celebrated military character of the last reign, and the 
incongruity almost entirely vanishes : I am not sure that 
we should not be rather more disposed to respect the 
peculiarity than to laugh at it. As you increase the 
incongruity, you increase the humor ; as you diminish it, 
you diminish the humor. If a tradesman of a corpulent 
and respectable appearance, with habiliments somewhat 
ostentatious, were to slide down gently into the mud, and 
dedecorate a pea-green coat, I am afraid we should all 
have the barbarity to laugh. If his hat and wig, like 
treacherous servants, were to desert their falling master, 
it certainly would not diminish our propensity to laugh ; 


but if he were to fall into a violent passion, and abuse 
every body about him, nobody could possibly resist the 
incongruity of a pea-green tradesman, very respectable, 
sitting in the mud, and threatening all the passers-by 
with the effects of his wrath. Here, every incident 
heightens the humor of the scene: — the gayety of his 
tunic, the general respectability of his appearance, the 
rills of muddy water which trickle down his cheeks, and 
the harmless violence of his rage ! But if, instead of 
this, we were to observe a dustman falling into the mud, 
it would hardly attract any attention, because the opposi- 
tion of ideas is so trifling, and the incongruity so slight. 
Surprise is as essential to humor as it is to wit. In 
going into a foreign country for the first time, we are 
exceedingly struck with the absurd appearance of some 
of the ordinary characters we meet with : a very short 
time, however, completely reconciles us to the phenomena 
of French abbes and French postilions, and all the 
variety of figures so remote from those we are accus- 
tomed to, and which surprise us so much at our first ac- 
quaintance with that country. I do not mean to say, 
either of one class of the ridiculous or of the other, that 
perfect novelty is absolutely a necessary ingredient to 
the production of any degree of pleasure, but that the 
pleasure arising from humor diminishes, as the surprise 
diminishes ; — it. is less at the second exhibition of any 
piece of humor than at the first, less at the third than the 
second, till at last it becomes trite and disgusting. A 
piece of humor will, however, always bear repetition 
much better than a piece of wit ; because, as humor 
depends in some degree on manner, there will probably 
always be in that manner, something sufficiently different 
from what it was before, to prevent the disagreeable 
effects of complete sameness. If I say a good thing to- 
day, and repeat it again to-morrow in another company, 
the flash of to-day is as much like the flash of to-morrow 
as the flash of one musket is like the flash of another ; 
but if I tell a humorous story, there are a thousand little 
diversities in my voice, manner, language, and gestures, 
which make it rather a different thing from what it was 


before, and infuse a tinge of novelty into the repeated 

It is by no means, however, sufficient, to say of humor, 
that it is incongruity which excites surprise ; — the same 
limits are necessary here which I have before affixed to 
wit, — it must excite surprise, and nothing but surprise ; 
for the moment it calls into action any other high and 
impetuous emotion, all sense of the humorous is imme- 
diately at an end. For, to return again to our friend 
dressed in green, whom we left in the mud, — suppose, 
instead of a common, innocent tumble, he had experienced 
a very severe fall, and we discovered that he had broken 
a limb ; our laughter is immediately extinguished, and 
converted into a lively feeling of compassion. The 
incongruity is precisely as great as it was before ; but 
as it has excited another feeling not compatible with the 
ridiculous, all mixture of the humorous is at end. 

The sense of the humorous is as incompatible with 
tenderness and respect as w T ith compassion. No man 
would laugh to see a little child fall ; and he would be 
shocked to see such an accident happen to an old man, 
or a woman, or to his father ! It is an odd case to put, 
but I should like to know if any man living could have 
laughed if he had seen Sir Isaac Newton rolling in the 
mud ? I believe that not only Senior Wranglers and 
Senior Optimi would have run to his assistance, but 
that dustmen, and carmen, and coal-heavers would have 
run and picked him up, and set him to rights. It is a 
beautiful thing to observe the boundaries which nature 
has affixed to the ridiculous, and to notice how soon it is 
swallowed up by the more illustrious feelings of our 
minds. Where is the heart so hard that could bear to 
see the awkward resources and contrivances of the poor 
turned into ridicule ? Who could laugh at the fractured, 
ruined body of a soldier ? Who is so wicked as to 
amuse himself with the infirmities of extreme old age ? 
or to find subject for humor in the weakness of a 
perishing, dissolving body ? Who is there that does not 
feel himself disposed to overlook the little peculiarities 
of the truly great and wise, and to throw a veil over that 
ridicule which they have redeemed by the magnitude 


of their talents, and the splendor of their virtues ? Who 
ever thinks of turning into ridicule our great and ardent 
hope of a world to come? Whenever the man of humor 
meddles with these things, he is astonished to find, that 
in all the great feelings of their nature the mass of 
mankind always think and act aright; — that they are 
ready enough to laugh, — but that they are quite as ready 
to drive away with indignation and contempt, the light 
fool who comes with the feather of wit to crumble the 
bulwarks of truth, and to beat down the Temples of God ! 

So, then, this turns out to be the nature of humor : 
that it is incongruity which creates surprise, and only 
surprise. Try the most notorious and classical instances 
of humor by this rule, and you will find it succeed. If 
you find incongruities which create surprise and are not 
humorous, it is always, I believe, because they are ac- 
companied with some other feeling, — emotion, or an 
interesting train of thought, beside surprise. Find an 
incongruity which creates surprise, and surprise only, 
and, if it be not humorous, I am, what I very often am, 
completely wrong ; and this theory is, what theories 
very often are, unfounded in fact. 

Most men, I observe, are of opinion that humor is 
entirely confined to character ; — and if you choose to 
confine the word humor to those instances of the ridicu- 
lous which are excited by character, you may do so if 
you please, — this is not worth contending. All that I 
wish to show is, that this species of feeling is produced 
by something beside character ; and if you allow it to 
be the same feeling, I am satisfied, and you may call it 
by what name you please. One of the most laughable 
scenes I ever saw in my life was, the complete overturn- 
ing of a very large table, with all the dinner upon it, — 
which I believe one or two gentlemen in this room re- 
member as well as myself. What of character is there 
in seeing a roasted turkey sprawling on the floor ? or 
ducks lying in different parts of the room, covered with 
trembling fragments of jelly ? It is impossible to avoid 
laughing at such absurdities, because the incongruities 
they involve are so very great ; though they have no 
more to do with character than they have with chemistry. 


A thousand little circumstances happen every day which 
excite violent laughter, but have no sort of reference to 
character. The laughter is excited by throwing inani- 
mate objects into strange and incongruous positions. 
Now, I am quite unable, by attending to what passes in 
my own mind, to say, that these classes of sensations 
are not alike : they may differ in degree, for the incon- 
gruous observed of things living, is always more striking 
than the incongruous observed in things inanimate ; but 
there is an incongruous not observable in character, 
which produces the feeling of humor. 

Having thus endeavored to ascertain the nature of 
humor, I come next to the various classes and divisions 
of the ridiculous which have no affinity with humor. 

Buffoonery is voluntary incongruity. To play the 
buffoon, is to counterfeit some peculiarity incongruous 
enough to excite laughter : not incongruities of mind, 
for this is a humor of a higher class, and constitutes 
comic acting ; but incongruities of body, — imitating a 
drunken man, or a clown, or a person with a hunched 
back, or puffing out the cheeks as the lower sort of 
comic actors do upon the stage. Buffoonery is general 
in its imitations ; mimicry is particular, and seizes on 
the incongruous in individual characters. I think we 
must say, that mimicry is always employed upon de- 
fects : a good voice, a gentleman-like appearance, and 
rational, agreeable manners, can never be the subject of 
mimicry ; — they may be exactly represented and imi- 
tated, but nobody would call this mimicry, as the word 
always means the representation of defects. Parody is 
the adaptation of the same thoughts to other subjects. 
Burlesque is that species of parody, or adaptation of 
thoughts to other subjects, which is intended to make 
the original ridiculous. Pope has parodied several Odes 
of Horace ; Johnson has parodied Juvenal ; Cervantes 
has burlesqued the old romances. 

A bull, — which must by no means be passed over in 
this recapitulation of the family of wit and humor, — a 
bull is exactly the counterpart of a witticism : for as wit 
discovers real relations that are not apparent, bulls admit 
apparent relations that are not real. The pleasure 


arising from bulls, proceeds from our surprise at sud- 
denly discovering two things to be dissimilar in which a 
resemblance might have been suspected. The same 
doctrine will apply to wit and bulls in action. Practical 
wit discovers connection or relation between actions, in 
which duller understandings discover none ; and practi- 
cal bulls originate from an apparent relation between 
two actions which more correct understandings immedi- 
ately perceive to have none at all. In the late rebellion 
in Ireland, the rebels, who had conceived a high degree 
of indignation against some great banker, passed a reso- 
lution that they would burn his notes ; — which they 
accordingly did, with great assiduity ; forgetting, that in 
burning his notes they were destroying his debts, and 
that for every note which went into the flames, a cor- 
respondent value went into the banker's pocket. A 
gentleman, in speaking of a nobleman's wife, of great 
rank and fortune, lamented very much that she had no 
children. A medical gentleman who was present ob- 
served, that to have no children was a great misfortune, 
but he thought he had remarked it was hereditary in 
some families. Take any instance of this branch of the 
ridiculous, and you will always find an apparent relation 
of ideas leading to a complete inconsistency. 

I hardly know whether quaintness belongs to this 
subject, and the word is now used so loosely that it is 
no very easy matter to determine at what it points. I 
think it means an attention to petty excellences in style, 
an over-scrupulous and affected delicacy of expression ; 
and that quaint humor, is humor in this peculiar garb. 

Good caricature is the humorous addressed to the eye. 
It represents you as doing something which it would be 
extremely incongruous and absurd in you to do ; but it 
adds the effects of mimicry to those of humor, laying 
hold of personal defects and peculiarities, and aggravat- 
ing them in a very high degree. 

I shall say nothing of charades, and such sorts of un- 
pardonable trumpery : if charades are made at all, they 
should be made without benefit of clergy, the offender 
should instantly be hurried off to execution, and be cut 
off in the middle of his dullness, without being allowed 


to explain to the executioner why his first is like his 
second, or what is the resemblance between his fourth 
and his ninth. 

Incongruities, which excite laughter, generally pro- 
duce a feeling of contempt for the person at whom we 
laugh. I do not know that I can state an instance of 
the humorous in persons, where the person laughing 
does not feel himself superior to the person laughed at, — 
whether that sense of the humorous be excited by an 
accidental incongruity of situation, or by a permanent 
incongruity interwoven in the character. Remember, 
I am not speaking of persons laughed with, but of per- 
sons laughed at: and in all such cases the laugher is, in 
his own estimation, the superior man ; the person 
laughed at, the inferior : at the same time, contempt 
accompanied by laughter, is always mitigated by laughter, 
which seems to diminish hatred, as perspiration dimin- 
ishes heat. 

Laughing contempt is by no means the strongest con- 
tempt ; whenever contempt increases to a very high 
degree, it becomes serious, and all laughter ceases. 
Contempt verges upon anger, and the humorous is at an 
end. A very foolish, insignificant man, may give him- 
self airs of great importance in society, and provoke 
laughter; but the laughter by no means goes on in- 
creasing with the incongruity, for at last a degree of 
contempt ensues, which is rather painful than agreeable ; 
and so painful, as to put an end to laughter, and chase 
away the humorous. 

The ridiculous is not so much opposed to the proper 
and the decent, as to that which is very proper and very 
decent. There is a propriety so unusual, that it obtains 
positive praise whenever it is observed ; there is a fainter 
sense of propriety, just sufficient to guard a man from 
observation, but for which he obtains neither blame nor 
praise. There is a deficiency of propriety so great, that 
it is universally ridiculous. Take it in language :— my 
mode of expressing myself may be so happy and so ac- 
curate, I may throw my ideas into such agreeable com- 
binations of words, that I may derive a considerable 
share of reputation from my style, either in talking or in 


writing ; or my language may be just so mediocre, as to 
escape all attention ; or so bad, and so full of incongrui- 
ties, that it may be laughed at. Now the last of these, 
which is so bad as to excite the powerful emotion of 
laughter, is to be opposed and contrasted, in all specula- 
tions upon this subject, to that which is so excellent as 
to excite a strong feeling of approbation. I mention 
this, in order to show that nature acts as much by re- 
wards as by punishments ; and that men are as much 
allured to do that which is fit and decent, by the love of 
each other's approbation, as they are by the fear of each 
other's laughter and disapprobation. Laughter is, to 
many men, worse than death. Innumerable duels have 
been fought to prevent the pangs of ridicule, and to re- 
venge them ; and there are very few who would not 
rather be hated than be laughed at. The effects of this 
feeling, entertained in a rational and moderate degree, 
are, to render men dependent upon each other's judg- 
ment, and to lay the basis of that propriety and decorum 
upon which the pleasure and happiness of our intercourse 
are founded. 

In Bedlam (where there is no fear of the ridiculous), 
within ten yards one man is singing, another reciting, 
and another sleeping ; a young man is dressed like an 
old one, and an old one as if he were young ; there is 
that universal selfishness, which of course must predom- 
inate where every human being is utterly indifferent to 
the censure or praise of the other. In polished society, 
the dread of being ridiculous, models every word and 
gesture into propriety, and produces an exquisite atten- 
tion to the feelings and opinions of others ; it is the 
great cure of extravagance, folly, and impertinence ; it 
curbs the sallies of eccentricity, it recalls the attention 
of mankind to the one uniform standard of reason and 
common sense. 

It has often been remarked, that wit never excites 
laughter, and that humor does. This is putting the mat- 
ter in rather too strong a light. The laughter is not so 
long and so loud in wit as it is in humor, but there is cer- 
tainly a faint approach to the same bodily affection. 
Nature seems to have intended that we should have been 


affected by both, in a similar manner, but not in the same 
degree. I do not pretend to give any reason for this 
fact ; except, perhaps, it be this, that humor is in general 
longer than wit : in a piece of wit there is but a single 
flash of surprise and pleasure ; in a piece of humor, as in 
Don Quixote's battle with the mills, one impression fol- 
lows quick upon another, the mind is thrown into an atti- 
tude of pleasing surprise by the first occurrence of the 
idea, and then all the other touches of humor act one on 
another with a compound force and accumulated impres- 
sion, till at last the convulsion of laughter ensues ; — and 
it is a confirmation of this idea, that the tranquil smile 
with which wit is received, is soon disturbed and roused 
into something more disorderly, when there is much re- 
duplication of wit ; when it comes out, as it does in some 
men, flash after flash, with a brisk multiplication of sur- 
prises, a continued irritability, — where one nerve no 
sooner ceases to vibrate than another is struck, and the 
mind is kept in a constant agitation of pleasure. In 
cases like this, I have very often seen wit produce loud 
and convulsive laughter ; and am inclined to believe, that 
the different effects of humor and wit, in this respect, are 
a good deal to be attributed to the continuity of one, and 
the brevity of the other; to which, perhaps, may be 
added, that wit excites more admiration than humor, — a 
feeling by no means favorable to laughter. 

Wit and humor, though the first consists in discover- 
ing connection, the latter in discovering incongruity, are 
closely and nearly related to each other. The respect- 
ive feelings both depend upon surprise, are both incom- 
patible with serious and important ideas, and both com- 
municate the same sort of pleasure to the understanding. 
A man who gives the reins to his wit, may repress his 
humor as undignified ; the one may be rooted out by 
design and attention ; but they seem, where no pains of 
this kind have been taken, to spring up naturally in the 
same soil, and to be plants of the same tribe and family. 
The ingenious and philosophical Dr. Millar, of Glasgow, 
has a very interesting speculation of the different effects 
of civilization on wit and humor, the progress of which 
he conceives to have a direct tendency to encourage wit, 


and to diminish humor. It is so very well done, and so 
clever, that I shall, I am sure, be excused for reading 
it: — 

" The higher advances of civilization and refinement, 
contributed not only to explode the ludicrous pastimes 
which had been the delight of a former age, but even to 
weaken the propensity to every species of humorous ex- 
hibition. Although humor be commonly productive of 
more merriment than wit, it seldom procures to the pos- 
sessor the same degree of respect. To show in a strong 
light the follies, the defects, and the improprieties of man- 
kind, they must be exhibited with peculiar coloring. To 
excite strong ridicule, the picture must be changed, and 
the features, though like, must be exaggerated. The 
man who, in conversation, aims at the display of his tal- 
ents, must endeavor to represent with peculiar heighten- 
ing the tone, the aspect, the gesture, the deportment of 
the person whom he ridicules. To paint folly, he must, 
for the time, appear foolish. To exhibit oddity and ab- 
surdity, he must himself become odd and absurd. There 
is, in this attempt, something low and buffoonish ; and a 
degree of that meanness which appeared in the person 
thus exposed, is likely, by a natural association, to re- 
main with his representative. The latter is beheld in 
the light of a player, who degrades himself for our enter- 
tainment, and whom nothing but the highest excellence 
in his profession can save from our contempt. 

" But though the circumstances and manners of a pol- 
ished nation are adverse to the cultivation of humor, 
they are peculiarly calculated to promote the circulation 
and improvement of wit. The entertainment arising 
from the latter, has no connection with those humiliating 
circumstances which are inseparable from the former ; 
but is derived from such occasional exertions of the 
fancy, as may be consistent with the utmost elegance 
and correctness. The man of wit has no occasion to 
personate folly, or to become the temporary butt of that 
ridicule which he means to excite. He assumes no gro- 
tesque attitude, he employs no buffoonish expression, nor 
appears in any character but his own. Unlike the man 
of humor, he is never prolix or tedious, but, passing with 


rapidity from one object to another, selects from the 
group whatever suits his purpose. He sees with quick- 
ness those happy assemblages, those unexpected opposi- 
tions and resemblances, with which the imagination is 
delighted and surprised, and by a sudden glance he di- 
rects the attention to that electrical point of contact by 
which the enlivening stroke is communicated."* 

I admire this very much, for, whether true or not, it is 
very interesting and ingenious ; but I confess I am not 
quite convinced by it, nor can I easily concede that the 
effect of civilization is to diminish and check the humor- 
ous. There are many circumstances in a civilized coun- 
try, which, on the contrary, go directly to the encourage- 
ment of humor. Dr. Millar himself, mentions one of 
very considerable importance. To this cause may be 
added, that there are a greater number of minds in a civ- 
ilized state, capable of seizing the finer inconsistencies in 
character, and relishing that humor which they excite ; 
there are a thousand little traits of the humorous, which 
a man of fine and cultivated understanding perceives, 
which are utterly lost upon grosser faculties ; but an age 
of civilization is an age in which the number of fine and 
cultivated understandings is the greatest, and in which, 
therefore, for these reasons, the field of humor is en- 

It is unfair to take the stage as a proof, and to ask 
why we have not Molieres and Shakspeares starting up 
at every period ! The preceding age has gleaned all the 
twenty or thirty characters of strong and extravagant 
humor which lie upon the surface of society ; not be- 
cause it had greater talents for humor, but merely be- 
cause it was the preceding age. The blustering captain, 
— the inebriated and witty rake, — the obese alderman, — 
the squire in London, — slaving poets, homicide phy- 
sicians, chambermaids, valets, and duennas, — are all 
gone ; employed by dramatic writers who had the first 
of the market. These characters can not be reintro- 
duced on the stage ; they are worn out there ; but they 
exist in real life, and of course must exist, while men are 
what they ever have been. 

* Millar's Historical View of the English Government, iv. 357. 


Another reason which would induce me to suspect 
that Professor Millar is wrong in supposing that, humor 
decays in a civilized age, is, that in a civilized age the 
number of idle people is so immensely augmented, and, 
of course.- the demand for every thing amusing consider- 
ably increased. There are several meanings included 
under the term civilization ; it means, having better cups 
and saucers than we had a century or two centuries ago; 
better laws, better manners ; and it means, also, having 
nothing to do, — and those who have nothing to do, must 
either be amused, or expire with gaping. For this rea- 
son an amusing and entertaining man, who has humor, 
appears to me to be in high request in a civilized coun- 
try. I allow that his humor, to be well received, must 
be of a very different complexion from what would pass 
current in more barbarous times ; it must be the humor 
of the mind, not the humor of the body. It must be de- 
void of every shade of buffoonery and grimace, and 
managed with a great degree of delicacy and skill. Civ- 
ilization improves the humor, but I can hardly allow that 
it diminishes it : in spite of all Professor Millar has said, 
I am strongly inclined to think there will be more hu- 
mor, more agreeable railleiy, and more facetious remark, 
displayed between seven and ten o'clock this evening, in 
the innumerable dinners which are to be eaten by civil- 
ized people in this vast city, than ten months could have 
produced in the reigns of Queen Elizabeth or Henry the 

On the very face of the proposition there is indeed 
something which it is difficult to digest. The effect of 
civilization is, to avert mankind from the contemplation 
of a great part of their own nature : they observe incon- 
gruities better in a state of barbarism, or half barbarism; 
and in proportion as they are elegant, acute, and learned, 
they become dull and careless observers of some of the 
most stiking phenomena of the human mind. 

I. wish, after all I have said about wit and humor, I 
could satisfy myself of their good effects upon the char- 
acter and disposition ; but I am convinced the probable 
tendency of both is, to corrupt the understanding and 
the heart. I am not speaking of wit where it is kept 


down by more serious qualities of mind, and thrown 
into the background of the picture ; but where it stands 
out boldly and emphatically, and is evidently the master 
quality in any particular mind. Professed wits, though 
they are generally courted for the amusement they afford, 
are seldom respected for the qualities they possess. The 
habit of seeing things in a witty point of view, increases, 
and makes incursions from its own proper regions, upon 
principles and opinions which are ever held sacred by 
the wise and good. A witty man is a dramatic per- 
former ; in process of time, he can no more exist without 
applause, than he can exist without air ; if his audience 
be small, or if they are inattentive, or if a new wit 
defrauds him of any portion of his admiration, it is all 
over with him, — he sickens, and is extinguished. The 
applauses of the theater on which he performs are so 
essential to him that he must obtain them at the ex- 
pense of decency, friendship, and good feeling. It must 
always be probable, too, that a mere wit is a person of 
light and frivolous understanding. His business is not 
to discover relations of ideas that are useful, and have a 
real influence upon life, but to discover the more trifling 
relations which are only amusing ; he never looks at 
things with the naked eye of common sense, but is 
always gazing at the world through a Claude Lorraine 
glass, — discovering a thousand appearances which are 
created only by the instrument of inspection, and cover- 
ing every object with factitious and unnatural colors. 
In short, the character of a mere wit it is impossible to 
consider as very amiable, very respectable, or very safe. 
So far the world, in judging of wit where it has swal- 
lowed up all other qualities, judge aright; but I doubt 
if they are sufficiently indulgent to this faculty where it 
exists in a lesser degree, and as one out of many other in- 
gredients of the understanding. There is an association 
in men's minds between dullness and wisdom, amuse- 
ment and folly, which has a very powerful influence in 
decision upon character, and is not overcome without 
-considerable difficulty. The reason is, that the outward 
signs of a dull man and a wise man are the same, and so 
are the outward signs of a frivolous man and a witty 


man ; and we are not to expect that the majority will 
be disposed to look to much more than the outward sign. 
I believe the fact to be, that wit is very seldom the only 
eminent quality which resides in the mind of any man ; 
it is commonly accompanied by many other talents of 
every description, and ought to be considered as a strong 
evidence of a fertile and superior understanding. Al- 
most all the great poets, orators, and statesmen of all 
times, have been witty. Caesar, Alexander, Aristotle, 
Descartes, and Lord Bacon, were witty men ; so were 
Cicero, Shakspeare, Demosthenes, Boileau, Pope, Dryden, 
Fontenelle, Jonson, Waller, Cowley, Solon, Socrates, 
Dr. Johnson, and almost every man who has made a dis- 
tinguished figure in the House of Commons. I have 
talked of the danger of wit : I do not mean by that to 
enter into commonplace declamation against faculties 
because they are dangerous ; — wit is dangerous, elo- 
quence is dangerous, a talent for observation is danger- 
ous, every thing is dangerous that has efficacy and vigor 
for its characteristics ; nothing is safe but mediocrity. 
The business is, in conducting the understanding well, 
to risk something ; to aim at uniting things that are com- 
monly incompatible. The meaning of an extraordinary 
man is, that he is eight men, not one man ; that he has as 
much wit as if he had no sense, and as much sense as if 
he had no wit ; that his conduct is as judicious as if he 
were the dullest of human beings, and his imagination as 
brilliant as if he were irretrievably ruined. But when 
wit is combined with sense and information ; when it is 
softened by benevolence, and restrained by strong prin- 
ciple ; when it is in the hands of a man who can use it 
and despise it, who can be witty and something much 
better than witty, who loves honor, justice, decency, 
good nature, morality, and religion, ten thousand times 
better than wit ; — wit is then a beautiful and delightful 
part of our nature. There is no more interesting spec- 
tacle than to see the effects of wit upon the different 
characters of men ; than to observe it expanding caution, 
relaxing dignity, unfreezing coldness, — teaching age, and 
care, and pain, to smile, — extorting reluctant gleams of 
pleasure from melancholy, and charming even the pangs 



of grief. It is pleasant to observe how it penetrates 
through the coldness and awkwardness of society, grad- 
ually bringing men nearer together, and, like the com- 
bined force of wine and oil, giving every man a glad heart 
and a shining countenance. Genuine and innocent wit 
like this, is surely the flavor of the mind ! Man could 
direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by 
tasteless food ; but God has given us wit, and flavor, and 
brightness, and laughter, and perfumes, to enliven the 
days of man's pilgrimage, and to " charm his pained steps 
over the burning marie." 



All language which concerns the mind is borrowed 
from language which respects material objects. 

The mind itself is called breath, wind, air, in almost 
all the languages of the world. Apprehension, comprehen- 
sion, understanding, perception, are all metaphors taken 
from the human body, or from substance of some sort or 
another. The reason is plain : the attention of man is 
first called powerfully to outer objects ; they are the first 
observed and the first named, they make the basis of all 
languages ; and then, when men can turn their attention 
inwardly upon themselves, and want words for new 
ideas, they naturally borrow them from already existing 
language, and are determined in their choice by some 
fanciful analogy between the object of mind, and the ob- 
ject of body. This is exactly the case with taste. There 
are certain feelings of the mind which take place upon 
the perception of certain objects, or the contemplation 
of certain actions, which men have chosen to compare 
to the sensations of the palate upon the application of 
certain flavors. There is no reason, that I know of, 
why they should compare them to sensations excited by 
taste, rather than by smell or by touch. The feeling of 
beauty, excited by the view of a pleasant landscape, no 
more "resembles any flavor which the palate can taste, 
than it resembles a soft and smooth object which the 
hand can touch : one metaphor has established itself, the 
other has not. We have begun, though of late years, to 
use the word tact ; we say of such a man that he has a 
good tact in manners, that he has a fine tact, exactly as 
we would say he has a good taste. We might, in 


familiar style, extend the metaphor to the sense of smell- 
ing, and say of a man that he had a good nose for the 

Taste, then, is a metaphorical expression ; and it is a 
mere word of classification, including several distinct 
feelings of the mind, exactly as the primary taste includes 
several distinct feelings of the body. It includes the 
feeling of beauty in all its very numerous meanings, the 
feeling of novelty, the feeling of grandeur, the feeling of 
sublimity, the feeling of propriety, and perhaps many 
others, which, in a subsequent part of my lecture, I shall 
take pains to enumerate. 

Precisely in the same manner, the natural taste in- 
cludes the taste of sweet, sour, hot, cold, moist, savory, 
and many others, which are so pleasantly exemplified 
every day in this great town; so that, when we use the 
word taste, we must recollect that there is no single 
feeling of the mind which has obtained that name, but 
that it is a classifying, comprehensive word, embracing 
a great number of distinct feelings. But why have we 
called all these feelings by the name of taste ? and why 
have we denied the appellation of taste to other feelings 
of the mind ? This is a very important question in the 
discussion, and I will endeavor to answer it hereafter ; 
at present I pass it by for the sake of order and arrange- 
ment. It is very clear why we call all the various feel- 
ings of the palate by the name of taste, — simply because 
they originate from the same bodily organ, the palate : 
and this analogy has given rise to a very strange sort of 
language, — of the organ of taste; — as if there were any 
separate quarter of the mind set apart for the generation 
of these feelings. All that we know about the matter, is 
this : men have chosen to take a metaphor from the 
body, and apply it to the mind ; they have chosen, for 
reasons hereafter to be conjectured, and from some re- 
mote resemblance, to class some feelings under the ap- 
pellation of taste, others not. This is the plain history of 
the fact ; further than this, is all metaphorical fallacy ; 
and as for any separate organ of taste, there is either no 
meaning to the expression, or, if there be, it is impossible 
io ascertain the fact which the expression implies. 

ON TASTE. 149 

I shall now endeavor to state the various feelings 
which have been classed under this appellation, and the 
extent to which practice has extended and applied the 
metaphor of taste. It matters not which of the feelings 
I state first, and I do not think I shall give much offence 
by beginning with that of beauty. 

I do not mean to analyze the feeling of the beautiful 
(that I reserve for a separate lecture), but merely to 
state it as one of those feelings of the mind to which the 
metaphor of taste is applied. To talk first of the 
simplest and most uncompounded kinds of beauty. We 
say that gay colors are beautiful ; that all children, or 
those muscular and robust children called savages, have 
a taste for beautiful colors, for smooth surfaces, for har- 
monious sounds, and for regular figures. We say of 
such a man, meaning to pay him a high compliment, 
that he has a good taste in the beauty of the person ; of 
another, that he has a fine taste in architecture, meaning 
by the expression, that he feels the beauties of architec- 
ture : in short, wherever we use the word beauty with 
any degree of strictness, we almost always refer it to the 
general class of taste. There is a lax usage of the word 
beautiful, which implies any thing that is agreeable or 
convenient. I have heard country gentlemen talk of a 
beautiful scenting-day ; and Mrs. Glasse talks of a 
beautiful receipt for curing a ham ; but this is evidently 
an analogical, and even a violent, usage of the word. 

It is used to the sublime. We say of such a man, 
" He has not taste enough to relish the sublimity of the 
description ;" or, " Such sublime scenery is quite to his 

The metaphor of taste has never been much extended 
to novelty, though there are forms of language in which 
it would not be improper to apply it. " Such continued 
novelty is not to my taste ;" — " I go into different socie- 
ties, because I have a strong relish for novelty." How- 
ever, the word does not seem so well placed here, and 
does not satisfy the ear so cleverly as in the preceding 
instances ; and perhaps for this reason the word taste 
is most frequently and emphatically applied, both in its 
original", and in its figurative sense, in cases of some diffi- 


culty. If a man were to discover that vinegar was 
sour, we should give him no great credit for his natural 
taste. If any man were to discover the true language 
of nature and of feeling in this little poem of Mrs. Opie's, 
he would gain no credit for his metaphorical taste, be- 
cause the beauties of it are too striking for a moment's 
hesitation : 

rt Go, youth beloved ! in distant glades, 

New friends, new hopes, new joys to find ! 
Yet sometimes deign, midst fairer maids, 

• To think on her thou leav'st behind. 
Thy love, thy fate, dear youth, to share, 

Must never be my happy lot ; 
But thou may'st grant this humble prayer, — 

Forget me not, forget me not ! 

" Yet should the thought of my distress 

Too painful to thy feelings be, 
Heed not the wish I now express, 

Nor ever deign to think of me. 
But oh ! if grief thy steps attend, 

If want, if sickness, be thy lot, 
And thou require a soothing friend, 

Forget me not, forget me not !"* 

For this very reason, the word taste has not been ap- 
plied so often to novelty ; because whether a thing be 
novel or not, is no question of critical inquiry, but of 
plain fact, which one man can answer to with as much 
satisfaction as another. 

It is certainly applied to ridicule. 

Dr. Gerard classes the pleasures of imitation under the 
head of taste, for it must be remembered there is a 
pleasure arising from mere imitation, whether the original 
be agreeable or not. We should be much pleased to see 
an accurate picture of the greatest beauty now living ; 
and we should not be displeased to see the picture of a 
rat or a weasel : the mere imitation itself, abstracted 
from all other considerations, gives pleasure ; but though 
this pleasure very much resembles those which are said 
to be pleasures of taste, and though it ought, perhaps, 
from such resemblance, to be so classed, yet I doubt very 
much if it ever has been, or if custom has extended the 

* Edinburgh Review, i. 116 

ON TASTE. 151 

metaphor to this sensation. Could we say of a man, 
who from frequently gazing on portraits had become a 
good judge of their resemblance to the original, that he 
had a good taste in imitation ? We might say he had a 
good taste in portraits ; meaning by that, that he could 
judge of their spirit, their grace, and their beauty : but I 
much question if we should refer his accuracy, in judging 
of the mere resemblance, to the class of tastes ; though, 
as I have before said, I can see no sort of reason why we 
do not. 

Harmony, which Dr. Gerard enumerates as a separate 
object of taste, appears to me to rank under the two 
preceding heads of sublimity and beauty. Propriety, 
the same author has omitted, though it clearly is one of 
the feelings referred to taste. A person observant of 
proprieties, is said to have a good taste in manners ; and 
any impropriety in any character of a play, or a poem, 
is imputed to bad taste,— the discovery of it, to critical 

In the lighter parts of morals, we may, perhaps, use 
the metaphor of taste ; but in the greater virtues and 
vices, certainly not. If a man were to kill the minister 
and church- wardens of his parish, nobody would accuse 
him of want of taste. The Scythians always ate their 
grandfathers ; they behaved very respectfully to them 
for a long time, but as soon as their grandfathers became 
old and troublesome, and began to tell long stories, they 
immediately eat them : nothing could be more improper, 
and even disrespectful, than dining off such near and 
venerable relations ; yet we could not with any propriety 
accuse them of bad taste in morals. Neither is the 
word taste used in subjects of pure reasoning. We 
could not say, that he who discovered an error in a 
mathematical problem had a good taste for reasoning; 
that he who made the error had a bad taste ; — to find 
that 12 times 12 is 144, is not a business of taste. 
Neither can we use the word taste with respect to very 
useful inventions. We could not say that Bolton and 
Watt exhibited a great deal of taste in the improvements 
they made upon the steam-engine ; nor could we say 
that Archimedes exhibited a fine taste in the machines 


he invented for dashing to pieces the Roman galleys, and 
knocking out the brains of the Roman soldiers. Some 
of these things appear too important for the application 
of that word ; others, too certain. It seems to have 
been intended that the metaphor should apply to feelings 
connected with pleasure and pain, not with duties and 
crimes ; with the superfluous, the lighter, and more 
luxurious sensations of the mind, not with those which 
become the subjects of approbation and disapprobation ; 
not with those parts of knowledge which are reducible to 
proof and demonstration, but in those which are shaded 
with doubt, and rest only on the basis of opinion. In 
order to see the tendency and spirit of the metaphor, try 
to misapply it in one or two instances, and observe what 
sort of feelings and objections the misapplication suggests. 
Suppose any body were to talk to you of the bad taste of 
a mother who had murdered her child, what would your 
answer be ? " Do you call that by the light name of 
taste, on which the dearest interests of mankind depend ? 
Is the feeling which a mother has for her child to be 
classed with the love of splendid colors, accurate imita- 
tion, and judicious description ? Is there the same 
doubt which hangs upon both ? Are the great rules of 
morals referable to no other and more certain proofs 
than those which decide upon the novel, the beautiful, 
and the sublime ?" These are the feelings and objections 
which naturally pass through every man's mind, and 
evince the conceptions he has gradually formed of the 
limits and province of taste. 

There is another consideration, perhaps, which has 
contributed to affix the limits of this metaphor. When 
we ascribe good or bad taste to any one, it is most com- 
monly for doing or feeling something, where he was at 
full liberty to have done or said the contrary. We are 
not apt to impute the excellence, or the defect, where 
there is no fair exertion of the will. We may say of a 
lady that she walks in good taste, but not that she 
tumbles down in good taste. We could not say that a 
lady fainted away in good taste, though I think we 
might speak of a good and bad taste in blushing. For 
the same reason, we can not talk of the bad taste of deep 

ON TASTE. 153 

melancholy or despair, or the bad taste of being very- 
short and very ugly ; because it is presumed that all 
men and women would be cheerful, tall, and beautiful, if 
they could. 

Natural tastes are sometimes so plain and strong, that 
they are immediately pronounced upon by every body. 
The most determined skeptic, if you catch him in a 
moment of candor, would allow that a good ripe peach 
was sweet. We say that a man recognizes this plain, 
indisputable fact by his taste, though he exercises no 
reasoning powers, and employs no reflection in arriving 
at the determination. So in the plainest and most 
undoubted examples of intellectual taste. If he were 
struck with some of the sublimest traits of Mrs. Siddons' 
acting, or if he was enchanted with the first view of 
Juan Fernandez, we should still refer these impressions 
to the class of tastes, even though they had cost him no 
effort in the acquisition, and though the feelings followed 
in all human beings as directly as any one fact can 
follow another in the various works of nature. We 
should call the detection of good or bad flavor, made by 
repeated efforts and close attention, an act of taste ; and 
in the same manner the detection of beauty or deformity 
in intellectual taste, with whatever degree of labor and 
reflection effected. If, from natural superiority of that 
organ, any man could discover flavor, insensible to 
common palates, we of course should refer his power, 
however extraordinary, to taste. Or if, by long practice, 
he had acquired the same rapid precision, we should still 
refer it to the same bodily organ. So in the intellectual 
taste, whether the feeling follow immediately upon the 
perception, whether it be preceded by critical investiga- 
tion, whether it be unusually delicate and true, either 
from natural talents or long habit, the feeling is always 
referred to taste, which is a general word for that affec- 
tion of the mind existing in any degree, and proceeding 
from any cause. I lay the greater stress upon this 
observation, because I perceive in many persons who 
speculate upon these subjects, a disposition only to 
allow the use of the word in cases where there is a 
critical, active exertion of the mind, and an effort to 


discriminate ; whereas it is undoubtedly used also, in 
those cases where the mind is merely passive, and where 
the feeling of beauty would be strongly excited in any 
human being, without the smallest effort to judge between 
conflicting sensations. 

The subject of taste has given rise to a very curious 
controversy ; — whether every feeling of taste depends 
upon accidental association, or whether, by the original 
constitution of nature, it is connected with any par- 
ticular object of sense, it is admitted on all hands that 
the feeling of beauty and sublimity very frequently, and 
even in a great majority of instances, depends upon 
mere association. For one instance : — in the estimation 
of Europeans, part of the beauty of a face is the color 
of the cheek ; not that there is something in that partic- 
ular position of red color, which, I believe, is of itself 
beautiful, — but habit has connected it also with the idea 
of health. An Indian requires that his wife's face should 
be of the color of good marketable sea-coal ; another 
tribe is enamored of deep orange ; and a cheek of copper 
is irresistible to a fourth. Every color is agreeable, in 
each of these instances, which is connected with the idea 
of youth and beauty ; the beauty is not in the color 
itself, but in the notions which the color summons up. 
Instances of this source of our ideas of the beautiful are 
innumerable, and universally admitted. The question 
is, Is there any object which originally, and of itself, ex- 
cites that feeling? The very newest and the most 
fashionable philosophy says, No. The Rev. Mr. Alison, 
in his very beautiful work on Taste, says no, — and says 
no, as he says every thing, with great modesty, and great 
ingenuity ; but though he is a very agreeable writer, and 
one of the best of men, I have very great doubts if he is 
right in his system. "In the first place," says Mr. 
Alison, " every feeling of beauty and sublimity is an 
emotion. Now mere matter is unfitted to produce any 
kind of emotion." If this be true, it settles the question ; 
it is only upon the supposition that mere matter can 
produce emotion, that the opposite opinion has ever been 
advanced : it is precisely the thing to be proved. It 
appears to me very singular to say, that mere matter 

ON TASTE. 155 

can never produce emotion upon the senses, and that 
we can only apply to it the expressions of sensation and 
perception. The theory of this school is, that Provi- 
dence has created a great number of objects which it 
intends you should see, hear, feel, taste, and smell, with- 
out caring a single breath whether you exercised your 
senses upon them or not ; that all the primary impulses 
of the mind must be mere intelligences, unaccompanied 
by any emotion of pleasure ; that pleasure might be 
added to them afterward, by pure accident, but that 
originally, and according to the scheme of nature, the 
senses were the channels of intelligence, never the 
sources of gratification. This doctrine was certainly 
never conceived in a land of luxury. I should like to 
try a Scotch gentleman, upon his first arrival in this 
country, with the taste of ripe fruit, and leave him to 
judge after that, whether nature had confined the senses 
to such dry and ungracious occupations, as whether 
mere matter could produce emotion. Such doctrines 
may do very well in the chambers of a northern meta- 
physician, but they are untenable in the light of the 
world ; they are refuted, nobly refuted, twenty times in 
a year, at Fishmongers' Hall. If you deny that matter 
can produce emotion, judge on these civic occasions, of 
the power of gusts, and relishes, and flavors ! Look at 
men when (as Bishop Taylor says) they are " gathered 
round the eels of Syene, and the oysters of Lucrinus, 
and when the Lesbian and Chian wines descend through 
the limbec of the tongue and larynx ; when they receive 
the juice of fishes, and the marrow of the laborious ox, 
and the tender lard of Apulian swine, and the condited 
stomach of the scams :" — is this nothing but mere sen- 
sation ? is there no emotion, no panting, no wheezing, 
no deglutition ? is this the calm acquisition of intelli- 
gence, and the quiet office ascribed to the senses ? — or 
is it a proof that Nature has infused into her original 
creations, the power of gratifying that sense which dis- 
tinguishes them, and to every atom of matter has added 
an atom of joy ? 

That there are some tastes originally agreeable, I 
think can hardly be denied ; and that Nature has origi- 


nally, and independently of all associations, made some 
sounds more agreeable than others, seems to me, I con- 
fess, equally clear. I can never believe that any man 
could sit in a pensive mood listening to the sharpening 
of a saw, and think it as naturally agreeable, and as 
plaintive, as the song of a linnet ; and I should very 
much suspect that philosophy, which teaches that the 
odor of superannuated Cheshire cheese, is, by the con- 
stitution of nature, and antecedent to all connection of 
other ideas, as agreeable as that smell with which the 
flowers of the field thank Heaven for the gentle rains, or 
as the fragrance of the spring when w T e inhale from afar 
" the milk-white thorn that scents the evening gale." 

One circumstance, which appears to have led to these 
conclusions, is the example of those same sensations 
which are sometimes ludicrous, sometimes sublime, 
sometimes fearful, according to the ideas with which 
they are associated. For instance, the sound of a trum- 
pet suggests the dreadful idea of a battle, and of the 
approach of armed men ; but to all men brought up at 
Queen's College, Oxford, it must be associated with eat- 
ing and drinking, for they are always called to dinner 
by sound of trumpet : and I have a little daughter at 
home, who, if she heard the sound of a trumpet, would 
run to the window, expecting to see the puppet-show of 
Punch, which is carried about the streets. So with a 
hiss : a hiss is either foolish, or tremendous, or sublime. 
The hissing of a pancake is absurd : the first faint hiss 
that arises from the extremity of the pit on the evening 
of a new play, sinks the soul of the author within him, 
and makes him curse himself and his Thalia ; the hissing 
of a cobra di capello is sublime, — it is the whisper of 
death ! But all these instances prove nothing ; for we 
are not denying that there are many sounds, tastes, and 
sights, which nature has made so indifferent, that asso- 
ciation may make them any thing. It is very true what 
Mr. Alison says, " that there are many sensations uni- 
versally called sublime, which association may make 
otherwise."* This is true enough, but it is not to the 
purpose. I admit readily, that a fortuitous connection 
* Alison on Taste, p. 139. 

ON TASTE. 157 

of thought can make it otherwise than sublime ; but the 
question is, Did it receive from nature the character of 
sublime ? does any thing receive from nature the char- 
acter of sublime, or the character of beautiful ? and 
would any thing perpetually display, and constantly pre- 
serve, such character, if no accident intervened to raise 
up a contrary association ? Certainty on such subjects 
can not be attained ; but I, for one, strongly believe in 
the affirmative of the question, — that Nature speaks to 
the mind of man immediately in beautiful and sublime 
language ; that she astonishes him with magnitude, 
appals him with darkness, cheers him with splendor, 
soothes him with harmony, captivates him with emotion, 
enchants him with fame; she never intended man should 
walk among her flowers, and her fields, and her streams, 
unmoved ; nor did she rear the strength of the hills in 
vain, or mean that we should look with a stupid heart 
on the wild glory of the torrent, bursting from the dark- 
ness of the forest, and dashing over the crumbling rock. 
I would as soon deny hardness, or softness, or figure, to 
be qualities of matter, as I would deny beauty or 
sublimity to belong to its qualities. 

Every man is as good a judge of a question like this, 
as the ablest metaphysician. Walk in the fields in one 
of the mornings of May, and if you carry with you a 
mind unpolluted with harm, watch how it is impressed. 
You are delighted with the beauty of colors ; are not 
those colors beautiful ? You breathe vegetable fragrance ; 
is not that fragrance grateful ? You see the sun rising 
from behind a mountain, and the heavens painted with 
light; is not that renewal of the light of the morning 
sublime ? You reject all obvious reasons, and say that 
these things are beautiful and sublime because the acci- 
dents of life have made them so ; — I say they are beau- 
tiful and sublime, because God has made them so ! that 
it is the original, indelible character impressed upon 
them by Him, who has opened these sources of simple 
pleasure, to calm, perhaps, the perturbations of sense, 
and to make us love that joy which is purchased without 
giving pain to another man's heart, and without entailing 
reproach upon our own. 


There is one other question, before I conclude this 
subject, on which I wish to say something ; a question 
like a German chancery suit, which is handed down 
from father to son as a matter of course, and the de- 
cision of which no man ever dreams of as a possible 
event. Some late traveler in Germany speaks of a suit 
in the imperial chamber of Wetzlar, which had been 
pending 170 years. The cause came on for a first hear- 
ing as he passed through the country ; the result he did 
not hear, as the Teutonic Master of the Rolls took 
time to consider. In the same manner, the world is 
always taking time to consider about the standard of 
taste. Is there any standard of taste, and what is it ? 
This is the question that has been discussed and re-dis- 
cussed from time immemorial, and in which question I 
suppose I have little to add to those who have so often 
handled it before me. As I have before said, taste is a 
general term for a great number of distinct feelings : 
if there be no standard for approbation and disappro- 
bation in these feelings, which are the constituent ele- 
ments of taste, there is no standard for taste ; but if a 
good and a bad can be asserted of these feelings with 
any degree of certainty, then there is a standard of 
taste. Let us try it in one of the departments of taste, 
the beautiful ; and then the question will be, is there 
any standard of the beautiful ? Now, if a delirious 
virtuoso were to purchase one of those sign-paintings in 
which King Charles the Second, seated on the oak-tree, 
announces the dispensation of beer and other uncourtly 
refreshments, and if he were to pronounce it more beau- 
tiful than Mr. Troward's noble picture by Leonardo da 
Vinci,* — so long as he thinks it is so, it unquestionably 
is so to him. There can be no doubt but that he is the 
standard of taste to himself, because, when he calls the 
thing beautiful, he only means to say that it excites in 
him that emotion, of the real existence of which he of 
course can be the only judge. But will this same sign- 
post appear beautiful to others ? and to whom ? and to 

* This picture of the Logos was in the possession of Mr. Troward 
when this lecture was deliveTed : it is now in the collection of Mr. Miles, 
of Leigh Court, near Bristol. 

ON TASTE. 159 

how many must it appear to be so, before you call it 
absolutely beautiful ? To the mob, to all human beings, 
or only to the enlightened few ? I answer to this, that 
the judges differ just according to the difficulty of the 
subject : there are some questions of the beautiful so 
very simple, for the decision of which such very little 
understanding is required, and where the experience of 
all men is so much upon a level, that in those, the mass 
of mankind are certainly the proper referees. Are 
splendid colors more beautiful than dull colors ? Is a 
soft surface more agreeable than a hard surface ? In 
such simple questions of beauty as this, the most ordi- 
nary understanding is as good as the best. But when you 
come to the complicated meaning of the word beauty, 
adopted in the phrase of " a beautiful poem," or " a 
beautiful picture," — when the subject is to be under- 
stood, the selection decided on, comparison with other 
rival efforts made, — a laborer from the streets can be no 
judge of such excellences as these, and therefore his 
opinion can form no part of that standard to which 1 
refer the decision in this species of beauty ; for we must 
take along with us, that as the word taste is merely a 
general expression for several distinct feelings, so the 
term beauty, itself involves no small number of distinct 
feelings which have received this common appellation. 
If, then, the species of beauty be stated, and a standard 
required for its excellences and defects, I determine it 
by voting, by no means admitting universal suffrage, 
but requiring that a man shall have forty shillings a year 
in common sense, and have paid the usual taxes of labor, 
attention, observation, and so on. But, to drop the 
metaphor, these are the ingredients which must enter 
into the composition of any mind which can be allowed 
to decide upon any species of beauty. In the first place 
there must be an absence of all prejudice and party 
spirit, because, though this may inspire the feeling of 
beauty, as well as any other cause, still it is a very 
ephemeral cause of that feeling ; and in speaking of the 
standard of beauty, we do not mean only that which 
will be judged beautiful to-day, but that which will be 
judged beautiful for ages to come. Then we must re- 


member, that the word beautiful always implies some 
comparison. The prose of Bunyan is agreeable to me 
till 1 have read that of Dryden ; Dryden's, till I am fa- 
miliarized to the works of Addison. The arrantest daub 
in painting may appear agreeable to me, till I have seen 
the masters in the Flemish school ; and I cease to ad- 
mire these latter when I am become acquainted with 
the great Italian pictures. The very term beautiful 
implies something superior to common effects ; and 
therefore we require in a judge of the beautiful, that 
from experience he should have ascertained what is a 
common effect, what not. A man who has seen very 
few pictures, is a bad judge of any single picture, be- 
cause, though he can tell whether he is pleased or not, 
he can not tell whether he is pleased more or less than 
he should be by pictures in general. Therefore, in ad- 
dition to candor, a judge of the beautiful must have 
experience ; — and he must also have delicacy of feeling: 
a man may reason himself out of this feeling of beauty, 
or reason himself into it ; but, after all, the thing is a 
matter of feeling, and there are some men of such me- 
tallic nerves, and blunt entrails, that Milton could never 
have written them into sublimity, or Michael Angelo 
painted them into emotion : of course they can be no 
judges of the beautiful, any more than the blind can de- 
termine upon the diversity of colors. Wherever, then, 
the standard of any species of beauty is required, we 
may safely say it rests in the opinion of candid men, of 
men who have had experience in that department of 
beauty, who have feeling for it, and who have competent 
understandings to judge of the design and reasoning, 
which are always the highest and most excellent of all 
beauties. Such men, where they are to be found, form 
the standard in every department of beauty, and in 
every ingredient of taste. How such critics are to be 
found, is another question : that they exist, no man 
doubts ; and their joint influence ultimately prevails, and 
gives the law to public opinion. But I hear some men 
asking where they are to be found ? and who they are ? 
with a sort of exultation, as if there were any wit, or 
talent, or importance, in the question. They are to be 

ON TASTE. 161 

found in Dover Street, Albemarle Street, Berkeley Square, 
the Temple ; anywhere wherever reading, thinking men, 
who have seen a great deal of the world, are to be 
found. I myself could mention the names of twenty- 
persons, whose opinions influence the public taste in this 
town ; and then, when opinions are settled here, those 
opinions go down by the mail-coach, to regulate all mat- 
ters of taste for the provinces. 

The progress of good taste, however, though it is 
certain and irresistible, is slow. Mistaken pleasantry, 
false ornament, and affected conceit, perish by the dis- 
criminating hand of time, that lifts up from the dust of 
oblivion, the grand and simple efforts of genius. Title, 
rank, prejudice, party, artifice, and a thousand disturbing 
forces, are always at work to confer unmerited fame ; 
but every recurring year contributes its remedy to these 
infringements on justice and good sense. The breath 
of living acclamation can not reach the ages which are 
to come : the judges and the judged are no more ; passion 
is extinguished ; party is forgotten : and the mild yet 
inflexible decisions of taste, will receive nothing, as the 
price of praise, but the solid exertions of superior talent. 
Justice is pleasant, even when she destroys. It is a 
grateful homage to common sense, to see those produc- 
tions hastening to that oblivion, in their progress to which 
they should never have been retarded. But it is much 
more pleasant to witness the power of taste in the work 
of preservation and lasting praise ; — to think that, in 
these fleeting and evanescent feelings of the beautiful 
and the sublime, men have discovered something as fixed 
and as positive, as if they were measuring the flow of the 
tides, or weighing the stones on which they tread ; — to 
think that there lives not, in the civilized world, a being 
who knows he has a mind, and who knows not that 
Virgil and Homer have written, that Raffaelle has paint- 
ed, and that Tully has spoken. Intrenched in these ever- 
lasting bulwarks against barbarism, Taste points out to 
the races of men, as they spring up in the order of time, 
on what path they shall guide the labors of the human 
spirit. Here she is safe ; hence she never can be driven, 


while one atom of matter clings to another, and till 
man, with all his wonderful system of feeling and thought, 
is called away to Him who is the great Author of all 
that is beautiful, and all that is sublime, and all that is 



The three next lectures which I propose to deliver in 
this place, will be on the same subject as that with which 
I am at present engaged {the Beautiful). I have found 
it quite impossible to compress this very ample subject 
into a less space ; and even with such limits I have been 
compelled to pass over many topics of discussion with a 
brevity very ill suited to their importance, and little fa- 
vorable to perspicuity. I mention the length to which I 
intend to carry this discussion, lest any one should con- 
ceive, after I had finished this lecture, that I had done 
with the subject, and consequently had treated it very je- 
junely and imperfectly : that I shall treat it imperfectly 
enough at last, I can easily believe ; but still I prefer to 
be judged after I am heard, rather than before. 

The best evidence we can procure of the resemblance 
of our feelings, is by language. When men give one 
common name to very dissimilar objects, it is most prob- 
able that they give it because these objects, though ap- 
parently dissimilar, produce effects upon the mind which 
materially resemble each other : therefore, the mode in 
which I propose to examine the nature of the beautiful, 
is, first, to state the fact with respect to language, the 
various classes of objects and occasions where a person 
understanding his own language thoroughly, and apply- 
ing it properly, would use the expression of beautiful. 

In the first place, it is applied to the simplest sensa- 
tions of sight, as color, figure, and so forth ; it is applied 
to sounds, either simple or compound ; but, I believe, 
neither to touch, taste, nor smell. We should not say 
that the feeling of velvet, or the taste of sugar, or the 


smell of a rose, was beautiful : the latter instance, how- 
ever, is rather doubtful ; if the expression be not already- 
legitimated, I think we may say it will be so very soon. 
We apply the expression to the face of nature, to land- 
scape, to personal appearance, to animals, to poetry, 
painting, sculpture, and all the fine arts which are called 
mimetic, and represent animate or inanimate nature. 
We apply it to several moral feelings of the mind, to 
architecture, and to invention in machinery. These 
are, I fancy, the principal subjects which justify the ap- 
plication of the word. 

There is one usage of the word to which I shall not 
refer in the subsequent discussion, because it is evident- 
ly used in a figurative sense ; as when we say that any 
thing which is good, is beautiful ; and in this sense we 
should say that Milton's description of the falling angels 
was beautiful, though in strictness it is sublime, and not 
beautiful : — 

" Him. the Almighty Power 
Hurl'd headlong flaming from the ethereal sky, 
With hideous ruin and combustion, down 
To bottomless perdition ; there to dwell 
In adamantine chains and penal fire, 
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms. 
Nine times the space that measures day and night 
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew 
Lay vanquish'd, rolling in the fiery gulf, 
Confounded, though immortal : But his doom 
Reserv'd him to more wrath ; for now the thought 
Both of lost happiness, and lasting pain, 
Torments him ; round he throws his baleful eyes, 
That witness'd huge affliction and dismay 
Mixt with obdurate pride and steadfast hate 
At once, as far as angels, ken, he views 
The dismal situation waste and wild : 
A dungeon horrible on all sides round, 
As one great furnace flam'd ; yet from those flames 
No light ; but rather darkness visible 
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe, 
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace 
And rest can never dwell ; hope never comes 
That comes to all ; but torture without end 
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed 
With ever-burning sulphur unconsum'd." 

But the word beautiful, as a general word for excellence, 
is a part of that practice in language, which, where there 


are many qualities, or many things, puts one of the most 
conspicuous, to stand for the whole. Thus, virtue, which 
originally signifies personal courage, has become a gen- 
eral name for all good qualities. England is the general 
name for all the three branches of the empire ; and the 
beautiful has become a general term for all the various 
excellences in poetry. 

Having, then, ascertained the facts respecting the ap- 
plication of the term beauty, there are two things which 
remain to be done, — to ascertain the causes, in each re- 
spective instance, which excite the feeling of the beauti- 
ful in my mind ; and next, to discover whether these va- 
rious examples of this feeling, which are called by a 
common name, do, in fact, possess a common nature : 
for if I can point out the cause or causes of this emotion, 
or class of emotions, and ascertain its nature, or their na- 
tures, I see nothing else which I have to do. 

A very great ambiguity has arisen in all language, 
from the confusion which has been made between the 
causes which act upon the mind, and the affections of 
the mind itself. In hardness or softness, there ought to 
be one word to signify that cause, which impresses the 
mind in that particular manner, and another for the im- 
pression itself. So in beauty, the same word expresses 
the emotion of the mind, and the cause of that emotion : 
it is absolutely necessary, in order to arrive at any defi- 
nite opinions on this subject, to specify to ourselves and 
others, in which of these two senses we are making use 
of the term ; and, to follow my own advice, I use the 
term beauty always as a feeling of the mind. When I 
say that such an object is beautiful, I mean that it has in 
itself the power of exciting in my mind that particular feel- 
ing. It does all very well in popular language, where no 
great precision is wanted, to say that a landscape is beau- 
tiful ; or the expression may stand where men know how 
to translate it into common sense : but in strictness the 
feeling only can be in my mind ; — the causes which ex- 
cite that feeling, whatever they be, are in the landscape ; 
all the effects which these causes can produce, are in me. 
Emotion can not reside upon the banks of rivers, or be 
green with the grass, flexible with the boughs, and pearly 


with the dew : the causes of this particular emotion may 
be in matter ; the thing itself can not. 

I hear some men contend that beauty, in strictness, 
only means personal beauty, or beauty of landscape ; and 
that when applied to such objects as an ox, or an inven- 
tion, as in a steam-engine, it is merely a metaphor. 
Now a metaphor is nothing but a short simile, and a 
simile is a resemblance ; and why, I should be glad to 
know, is one feeling of the mind, by general consent, said 
to resemble another feeling of the mind, if, in fact, there 
is no resemblance between them ? If it be used meta- 
phorically, it is the clearest proof that mankind have felt 
a resemblance, which has guided them in the application 
of the metaphor. When you compare an object of sense, 
to a feeling of mind, as pity to a balsam, or the feeling 
of anger to a storm, it is very obvious that such metaphors 
are derived from those faint analogies which are conve- 
nient enough for poetry, but utterly unsuitable to phi- 
losophy. But where mankind, or great numbers of 
mankind, have agreed to call two mere feelings by the 
same name, or, as other persons would say, to use one 
metaphorically for the other, it is a pretty clear proof 
that these two feelings do very strongly resemble each 

First, it is necessary to observe that the term beauty, 
to whatever object it is applied, is applied only to that 
which is very superior to other objects of the same 
species. Suppose an average appearance in human 
countenances, the term beauty is applied only where that 
average is very far exceeded ; it is as emphatical on one 
side of the middle point, as ugly is on the other, — both 
point at extremes. So in poetry ; a beautiful poem is 
one very superior to the common merit of poetry : a 
beautiful invention in mechanics is one in which much 
more than ordinary ingenuity is displayed. It is always 
a term of the superlative degree, implying comparison, 
and an opinion of pre-eminence, the result of that com- 

I shall set out, after these premises, with reasserting 
my opinion, advanced in the last lecture, that beauty is 
an original quality of matter : not that all matter has it, 


any more than all matter has hardness ; but that some 
matter has it, as some matter has hardness. As I said a 
great deal about it in my last lecture, I shall not ex- 
patiate further on this subject at present, but assume the 
principle, and reason upon it. 

Though I contend that there is an original beauty of 
matter, I do not by any means lay much stress upon it, 
or compare it with that feeling of the beautiful which 
matter excites when associated with some agreeable 
quality of mind. I believe a clear red, passing through 
a beautiful white color, is of itself beautiful ; but it is 
certainly more beautiful w T hen it becomes the sign of 
health, and we learn habitually to consider it as such. 
The lively green that the herbage assumes after rain, is 
of itself agreeable to the eye, but it is infinitely more 
agreeable when that color becomes the sign of plenty, of 
freshness, of liberty, of boundless range, and innocent 
enjoyment, and all the pleasures of mind we associate 
with the idea of the country. 

" For what are all 
The forms which brute, unconscious matter wears, — 
Greatness of bulk, or symmetry of parts ? 
Not reaching to the heart, soon feeble grows 
The superficial impulse ; dull their charms, 
And satiate soon, and pall the languid eye. 
Not so the moral species, nor the powers 
Of genius and design ; the ambitious mind 
There sees herself: by these congenial forms 
Touch'd and awaken'd, with intenser act 
She bends each nerve, and meditates well pleas'd 
Her features in the mirror. For, of all 
The inhabitants of earth, to man alone 
Creative Wisdom gave to lift his eye 
To Truth's eternal measures ; thence to frame 
The sacred laws of action and of will, 
Discerning justice from unequal deeds, 
And temperance from folly."* 

I shall begin the analysis of the beautiful with music, 
a subject which I can not pass over, but in which I must 
beg for great indulgence, because it is impossible for any 
one to be more completely ignorant of that art than I 
am. Let us take the plainest instance, simple melody, or 

* Akenside's " Pleasures of Imagination," line 526. 


an air sung by the human voice ; why do we call this 
combination of sounds beautiful, and what is the cause 
of the striking and beautiful emotion we derive from it ? 
In the first place, because each single sound of which the 
air is composed is beautiful, — that is, it is beautiful if the 
voice be good ; for I should suppose that any air sung 
by a wretched voice, or performed upon such an instru- 
ment as the bagpipe, could not with any propriety be 
denominated beautiful ; it may become so from associa- 
tion, but it requires the aid of association to make it so. 
We may say this air, sung by a good voice, or performed 
upon a good instrument, would be beautiful ; but this is 
only describing what other sounds would be, not saying 
what these are. Therefore, a simple air, sung by a 
good voice, is beautiful for one reason, because each 
particular sound of which it is composed is beautiful ; 
and the pleasure is of course immensely increased, from 
the variation and contrast of these sounds. 

" And ever, against eating cares, 
Lap me in soft Lydian airs, 

* * * -55- * 

In notes, with many a winding bout 
Of linked sweetness long draw out, 
With wanton heed and giddy cunning ; 
The melting voice through mazes running, 
Untwisting all the chains that tie 
The hidden soul of harmony." 

Melody is not only beautiful from its variety of ori- 
ginally beautiful sounds, but from its originally beautiful 
combinations. Some two notes joined together are 
naturally agreeable, others naturally disagreeable : at 
least, it is the commonly received opinion that concords 
are pleasant, discords unpleasant, from the constitution 
of our organs of hearing. Whether this be the fact, and 
whether concords here are concords the world through, 
I can not take upon me to determine ; but, however this 
be, the fact is indisputable, that very unpracticed ears are 
delighted with some combinations of sounds, and that 
this pleasure must be considered as another additional 
cause of the beauty of music. Rhythm, or number in 
music, is a copious source of variety and uniformity ; 


every piece of regular music is, as every one knows, 
supposed to be divided into small portions, separated in 
writing by a cross line, called a bar, which, whether they 
contain more or fewer sounds, are all equal in respect of 
time. In this way the rhythm is a source of uniformity, 
which pleases by suggesting the agreeable ideas of 
regularity, and, still more, by rendering the music in- 
telligible. But the principal cause of the beauty of 
music is, that it can be translated into feelings of the 
mind. Let a simple air be sung by a pleasing voice, not 
in words, but in articulate sounds, — as it is quick, or as 
it is solemn, as it is high or low, we immediately connect 
it with some feeling ; because experience has taught us 
that some of our passions are expressed in a solemn 
measure and low tone, others in quick measure and with 
an elevation of voice. If any one were for the first time 
to hear the tune of "Farewell to Lochaber," without 
words, there could, I should think, be little doubt but 
that he would associate it with some calm, melancholy 
emotion : nor could any person imagine that such a tune 
as that of "Dainty Davy," was intended to express 
profound and inconsolable grief. In these airs, we 
immediately associate with them some feeling of mind, 
and from this association their beauty is principally 
derived. " The objects, therefore, which produce such 
sensations, though in themselves not the immediate signs 
of such interesting or affecting qualities, yet, in conse- 
quence of this resemblance, become gradually expressive 
of them ; and, if not always, yet at those times, at least, 
when we are under the dominion of any emotion, serve 
to bring to our minds the images of all those affecting or 
interesting qualities, which we have been accustomed to 
suppose they resemble. How extensive this source of 
association is, may easily be observed in the extent of 
such kinds of figurative expression in every language."* 
Nothing can be more just and philosophical than these 
opinions of Mr. Alison and Dr. Beattie. Music itself 
can express only classes of feelings ; it can express only 
melancholy, not any particular instance or action of 
melancholy. The tune of " Lochaber," which I have 

* Alison, p. 185. 


before alluded to, expresses the pathetic in general ; lan- 
guage only can tell us that it is that particular instance 
of the pathetic, where a poor soldier takes leave of his 
native land, Lochaber, and his wife Jean, with a feeling 
that he shall see them no more : — 

'• Borne on rough seas to a far distant shore, 
I'll maybe return to Lochaber no more !" 

Therefore, the principal cause of the beauty of melody 
is, that as we hear the air, we not only translate it into 
human feelings, but, remembering the words connected 
with it, we summon up the particular exemplification of 
that feeling ; we think of the poor soldier who is never 
to see again his wife and his children in Lochaber ; we 
love his affection for that spot where he has spent many 
blithesome days, and we are touched with his misery. 
Whenever we hear an air to which we know no words, 
it can inspire only general emotion, and the comparative 
effect is feeble ; when poetry applies the general emotion 
to particular instances, musical expression has attained 
its maximum of effect. It is said that the " Pastorale " of 
Corelli was intended for an imitation of the song of 
angels hovering above the fields of Bethlehem, and 
gradually soaring up to heaven ; it is impossible, how- 
ever, that the music itself can convey any such expres- 
sion, — it can convey only the feelings of solemnity, of 
rapture, of enthusiasm ; imagination must do the rest. 
If another name were given to this piece of music, and 
it were supposed to relate to a much less awful event, 
its effects, though still powerful, would be very con- 
siderably diminished. 

Such appear to me to be the causes of that feeling of 
the beautiful excited by simple melody. The more 
complicated beauty of harmony is easiest explained by 
denying that it has any beauty ; the music often praised 
by professors and connoisseurs has often no other merit 
than that of difficulty overcome, which excites the feel- 
ing of wonder, not of beauty : the mass of hearers, who 
can not estimate the difficulty, can not participated the 
admiration ; they can derive no other gratification from it 
than the mere animal pleasure of beautiful sounds, which, 


when they are devoid of moral expression, soon fatigue and 
disgust : and the parts of a long concerto which give uni- 
versal pleasure are precisely those which do excite some 
feeling, which express either what is gay, or the strong pas- 
sions, or a pleasing melancholy. See the effects of a long 
piece of music at a public concert. The orchestra are 
breathless with attention, jumping into major and minor 
keys, executing figures, and fiddling with the most ecstatic 
precision. In the midst of all this wonderful science, the 
audience are gaping, lolling, talking, staring about, and 
half devoured with ennui. On a sudden there springs up 
a lively little air, expressive of some natural feeling, though 
in point of science not worth a halfpenny : the audience 
all spring up, every head nods, every foot beats time, and 
every heart also ; an universal smile breaks out on every 
face ; the carriage is not ordered ; and every one agrees 
that music is the most delightful rational entertainment 
that the human mind can possibly enjoy. In the same 
manner the astonishing execution of some great singers 
has in it very little of the beautiful ; it is mere difficulty 
overcome, like rope-dancing and tumbling ; and such 
difficulties overcome (as I have before said) do not ex- 
cite the feeling of the beautiful, but of the wonderful. 

Independently of these causes of pleasure in music, it 
may be aided by innumerable associations. It may be 
national music ; it may record some great exploit of my 
countrymen, as the " Belleisle March ;" it may be the 
" Ranz des Vaches ;" and innumerable other causes may 
aid its effects. In very loud music, as the organ, or in 
the assemblage of many instruments, an immediate phy- 
sical effect is produced upon the body, independent of 
any feeling of the mind. I have seen one or two people 
so nervous, that they could not hear an organ without 
crying ; and every body remembers the innumerable in- ' 
stances of fainting and weeping at the commemoration; 
in the Abbey, merely from the effect produced upon the 
nerves by sound. So that, to sum up all the causes I 
have alledged of the beautiful in music, we may say it' 
proceeds from an original power in sound to create that 
feeling, either in its simplest state, or in those instances 
of its combinations which we call concords; that that- 


feeling of beautiful may be aided by our admiration of 
the skill displayed in harmony, as one agreeable feeling 
always aids and increases another; — but that the prin- 
cipal cause of beauty in music, is the facility with which 
it is associated with feeling, from its resemblance to the 
tones in which feelings are expressed ; and that these 
feelings are made specific by the ministration of poetry, 
from the combination of which with music, great part of 
the power of the latter is derived. 

Passing from the beauty judged of by the ear, to that 
which falls under the province of sight, I can not (as I 
have before said) agree with those who would consider 
all colors as originally equally pleasing to the eye. I 
admit, association can make any color agreeable, or any 
disagreeable : but I contend, that, antecedent to all 
association, the eye delights in one color more than 
another ; that it passes over some with indifference, and 
receives exquisite delight from others. Fling among 
some common pebbles a Bristol stone, or some bits of 
colored glass ; present them to a child of two years old, 
which will he seize upon first ? When Captain Cook 
first broached his cargo of beads among the savages, 
and bought a large hog for a couple of beads, which 
were not worth the decimal of a farthing, — what asso- 
ciation can it be imagined the savages had formed with 
the various colors which proved so alluring to their 
eyes? The association, philosophers would tell us, that 
they liked blue, because it was the color of the sky ; 
white, because it was the color of the day. But why 
did they like faint yellow ? why orange color ? why 
deep purple ? and why would they have rejected un- 
glazed beads, as dull as this green baize, or of a color 
as insipid as that of a common stone ? It seems so very 
strange to me, that men should doubt any more of the 
gluttony of the eye than of the gluttony of the mouth. 
As the palate feasts upon savory and sweet, the ear 
feasts upon melody, and the eye gorges upon light and 
color till it aches with pleasure. 

With respect to the beauty of forms, I am much more 
inclined to agree that there is no original beauty of 
form ; but that it entirely depends on association. For 


the superior pleasure I receive from bright and trans- 
parent colors, to that of which I am conscious in looking 
at those which are dull and opaque, I can give no reason. 
It appears to me an original fact, that the perception of 
this color should be followed by the emotion of beauty. 
But I can not say the same of forms : I certainly prefer 
one form to another, but then I think I can always give 
some reason for the preference. 

We must divide forms into those which are simple, 
and those which are compounded of many other forms ; 
and it appears to me the following causes may be stated 
of that feeling of the beautiful, excited by the forms of 

Any form which excites the idea of smoothness, or 
faint resistance to the touch, is beautiful ; except where 
such notion of smoothness is accidentally united with 
any unpleasing notion. 

" On the whole," says Mr. Burke, " if such parts in 
human bodies as are found proportioned, were likewise 
constantly found beautiful, — as they certainly are not ; 
or if they were so situated, as that a pleasure might flow 
from the comparison, — which they seldom are ; or if any 
assignable proportions were found, either in plants or 
animals, which were always attended with beauty, — 
which never was the case ; or if, where parts were well 
adapted to their purposes, they were constantly beau- 
tiful, and when no use appeared, there was no beauty, — 
which is contrary to all experience ; we might conclude 
that beauty consisted in proportion or utility. But 
since, in all respects, the case is quite otherwise, we 
may be satisfied that beauty does not depend on these, 
let it owe its origin to what else it will."* 

The form of a solid globe of glass would be much more 
beautiful than if its surface were broken into inequalities, 
because it would be much more agreeable to the touch. 
Is, then, the smoothness of trees cut into a round form, 
more beautiful than their natural irregularity and rough- 
ness ? No, certainly not ; it gives an idea of restraint 
and injury to the tree, which is painful. Is the smooth- 
ness of a swelled face beautiful ? No, it gives the idea 

* Burke, p. 230. 


of disease. Here are disagreeable associations connected 
with the appearance of smoothness ; but any single ob- 
ject, considered by itself, is considered as more beautiful 
when smooth than when rough, except where (as I have 
said before) the roughness is the sign of a pleasant, or 
the smoothness of an unpleasant, quality. 

The forms of regular figures are agreeable, from the 
relations observed between the parts. The mind takes 
some pleasure in noticing that one side of a square is 
precisely like the other ; that one angle is exactly of the 
same magnitude as its diagonal. All forms which are 
regular are much more distinctly comprehended, and 
easily retained, than any irregular form ; because the 
accurate observation of one or two parts often leads to 
the knowledge of the whole. Thus, from a side, and 
solid angle, we j\ave the whole regular solid ; the meas- 
ure of one side gives the whole square, one radius the 
whole circle, two diameters an oval, one ordinate and 
abscissa the parabola ; and so on in more complex figures, 
which have any regularity, they can easily be determined 
and known in every part from a few data : whereas it 
might cost a man half his life to remember the form of 
the first pebble he picked up in the streets, so as to re- 
produce it at pleasure. Is, then, fhat form always agree- 
able in single objects which is regular ? Is a square 
nose agreeable ? or a head tapering off to a cone beau- 
tiful ? No ; they are both monstrous. Is a square tree 
upon espaliers more beautiful than a tree left to itself? 
No ; it gives you an idea of restraint and confinement. 
Does, then, a square house give you an idea of restraint 
and confinement ? No, by no means ; you do not ex- 
pect wildness in walls, and luxuriancy in buttresses : no 
man is so fond of the picturesque that he raises part of 
his drawing-room floor into hillocks, and depresses the 
rest into glens and valleys : the approach from the door 
to the table is not by any spiral and circuitous progress, 
but the servant enters, and, w 7 ith the most unpicturesque 
straightness, deposits what he has to leave. The regu- 
larity of the figures, instead of the notion of restraint, 
conveys the notion of comfort in the use, and of skill 
and economy in the building. Walls have no natural 


disposition to assume one form more than another : trees 

Those forms are beautiful which are associated with 
agreeable ends ; as strength, and health, and activity. 
Strength, however, is a quality in animals, which may 
be so easily turned to our destruction, that it requires to 
be joined with the notion of utility, to legitimate the 
usage of the word beautiful. The form of a rhinoceros 
indicates that he is as strong as a village, yet no one 
calls him beautiful. The form of an ox, or a cart-horse, 
which indicates strength supereminently above other 
animals of the same sort, is called beautiful — not by him 
whose mind has not been impressed with a strong asso- 
ciation between the form and the useful quality ; but as 
breeders, and men curious in cattle, do not scruple to 
apply to forms indicative of useful qualities the appella- 
tion of beauty. However, I will discuss this more at 
length, when I come to consider the question syntheti- 
cally, and to show (what I believe to be true), that any 
surprising adaptation of means to ends, immediately 
excites the feeling of the beautiful, except where asso- 
ciation intervenes to prevent it. 

Forms which excite the notion of swiftness, are com- 
monly beautiful ; or of a mixture of swiftness and 
strength. The greater part of our associations respect- 
ing beautiful forms, are taken from our own species. 
We find magnitude and strength of form, united with 
good qualities, which excite respect rather than affection ; 
and with bad ones, which excite fear rather than pity : 
with courage, perseverance, and intrepidity ; with vio- 
lence, harshness, and oppression. Experience, on the 
contrary, teaches us that delicacy of form is united with 
gentleness and benevolence, which are the objects of 
affection ; and wtth indecision, timidity, and fluctuation, 
which are the objects of compassion. This, if I mistake 
not, is the origin of that association in favor of delicacy 
of form, and of the application to it of the term beau- 
tiful: and of course, when the association is once estab- 
lished, it is extended to those inanimate objects from 
whence it would never have originated ; for I can not 
conceive that the delicacy of a flower, by which is prin- 


cipally meant its fragility, the facility with which any 
exterior violence can destroy it, can of itself be any 
cause of our deeming it beautiful, — unless our experience 
of moral beings had previously taught us to associate 
with the emblem of outward weakness, a thousand beau- 
tiful feelings of pity, gratitude, kindness, and other the 
best and fairest emotions of the mind. 



" All the objects which are exhibited to our view by 
Nature," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, " upon close exam- 
ination will be found to have their blemishes and defects. 
The most beautiful forms have something about them like 
weakness, minuteness, or imperfection. But it is not every 
eye that perceives these blemishes ; it must be an eye 
long used to the contemplation and comparison of these 
forms, and which, by a long habit of observing what any 
set of objects of the same kind have in common, has ac- 
quired the power of discerning what each wants in par- 
ticular. This long, laborious comparison, should be the 
first study of the painter who aims at the greatest style. 
By this means he acquires a just idea of beautiful forms ; 
he corrects Nature by herself, her imperfect state by her 
more perfect. His eye being enabled to distinguish the 
accidental deficiencies, excrescences, and deformities of 
things, from their general figures, he makes out an ab- 
stract idea of their forms, more perfect than any one 
original : and, what may seem a paradox, he learns to 
design naturally, by drawing his figures unlike to any 
one object. This idea of the perfect state of nature, 
which the artist calls the ideal beauty, is the great lead- 
ing principle by which works of genius are conducted. 
By this, Phidias acquired his fame ; he wrought upon a 
sober principle what has so much excited the enthusiasm 
of the world ; and by this method you who have cour- 
rage to tread the same path, may acquire equal reputa- 

' This is the idea which has acquired, and which 
seems to have a right to, the epithet of divine ; as it may 


be said to preside, like a supreme judge, over all the 
productions of nature, appearing to be possessed of the 
will and intention of the Creator, as far as they regard 
the external form of living beings. When a man once 
possesses this idea in its perfection, there is no danger 
but that he will be sufficiently warmed by it himself, and 
be able to warm and ravish every one else. 

" Thus it is from a reiterated experience, and a close 
comparison of the objects of nature, that an artist be- 
comes possessed of the idea of that central form, if I may 
so express it, from which every deviation is deformity. 
But the investigation of this form, I grant, is painful ; 
and I know but of one method of shortening the road ; — 
that is, by a careful study of the works of the ancient 
sculptors, who, being indefatigable in the school of nature, 
have left models of that perfect form behind them, which 
an artist would prefer as supremely beautiful, who had 
spent his whole life in that single contemplation. But 
if industry carried them thus far, may not you also hope 
for the same reward from the same labor ? We have the 
same school opened to us that was opened to them, for 
Nature denies her instructions to none who desire to 
become her pupils." 

Every body must perceive that in this opinion of Sir 
Joshua's there is a great deal of ingenuity as well as 
justice : and, in order to ascertain the effect of custom 
on the beauty of forms, I begin with stating, that where 
the customary figure of animals is very materially de- 
viated from, there we have always a sense of deformity 
and disgust. I carefully avoid mentioning those parts 
of animals where a deviation from the customary figure 
would imply disease and weakness, and prevent the 
animal from acting as Nature intended it should. A 
crooked spine gives us the very opposite notions to the 
beautiful, not merely because it is contrary to the cus- 
tomary figure of the animal, but because experience has 
taught us to associate it with the notions of disease and 
imbecility of body. But, in order to show the effect of 
custom upon the beautiful, take a chin, which is of no 
use at all. A chin ending in a very sharp angle would be 
perfect deformitv. A man whose chin terminated in a 


point, would be under the immediate necessity of retiring 
to America ; he would be a perfect horror : and for no 
other reason that I can possibly see, but that Nature has 
shown no intention of making such a chin, — we have 
never been accustomed to see such chins. Nature, we 
are quite certain, did not intend that the chin should be 
brought to a perfect angle, nor that it should be per- 
fectly circular, and therefore either of these extremes 
is a deformity. Now, something considerably removed 
from the perfect circle and the perfect angle, is the chin 
we have been most accustomed to see, and which, for 
that reason, we most approve of. Within certain limits, 
one chin is as common as another, and as handsome as 
another: there are degrees of tendency to the circle and 
the angle, which we can at once pronounce to be ugly ; 
but there is a middle region of some extent, where all 
approximations to these two figures are equally common 
and equally handsome. The only objection to this doc- 
trine of the central form, is, that it has been pushed too 
far ; it has been urged that there is an exact middle 
point between the two extremes, which is the perfection 
of beauty, and to which nature is perpetually tending. 
This attempt at such very precise and minute discovery 
in the subject of beauty, appears to me to give a fanciful 
air to the whole doctrine, and to do injustice to the real 
truth it contains. In the construction of every form, 
Nature takes a certain range : to ascertain the ordinary 
limits of her range, is practical, rational, and useful ; to 
aim at greater precision, and to speak as if you knew 
the very prototype at which Nature was always aiming, 
and from which she was always deviating on one side or 
the other, is to cheat yourself with your own metaphors, 
and to substitute illusion for plain fact. Within certain 
limits, every tendency to the circle or the angle, are 
equally removed from deformity, because they are 
equally common, and they are (all other things being 
equal)* equally beautiful. Of course I mean this only to 
apply where the expression is equal, and where mere 
historical association does not interfere to disturb the 
justice of the conclusions. The Grecian face is not 
common : I hardlv know what a Grecian face is, but I 


am told by those who have studied these matters, that 
there are some parts of it, — the length, 1 fancy, between 
the nose and the lip, — which are extremely uncommon, 
and very rarely to be met with in Europe. This is very 
probable ; but it is mere association. If the elegant arts 
had been transmitted to us from the Chinese instead of 
the Greeks, that singular piece of deformity, a Chinese 
nose, would very probably have been held in high es- 
timation. Now what I have said about forms amounts 
to this : — Forms are beautiful which are associated with 
the notion of smoothness of touch, which are regular, 
which give the notion of delicacy, or recall any of a 
particular class of feelings of mind. What that par- 
ticular class is, I shall attempt hereafter to specify. 

So far I have attempted to show, that the contrary 
to that, which is the customary form of any species, is 
deformity. But is the customary form itself beautiful ? 
does it create the opposite to disgust ? I am strongly 
inclined to think it does not ; that the mere common- 
ness of any form does not give the notion of beauty ; — 
it prevents the notion of deformity, but does not give 
the notion of beauty, for beauty itself is always un- 

Mr. Burke says, " If I am not mistaken, a great deal 
of the prejudice in favor of proportion has arisen, not so 
much from the observations of any certain measures 
found in beautiful bodies, as from a wrong idea of the 
relation which deformity bears to beauty, to which it 
has been considered as the opposite : on this principle it 
was concluded, that where the causes of deformity were 
removed, beauty must naturally and necessarily be in- 
troduced. This, I believe, is a mistake ; for deformity 
is opposed, not to beauty, but to the complete common 
form. If one of the legs of a man be found shorter than 
the other, the man is deformed, because there is some- 
thing wanting to complete the whole idea we form of a 
man : and this has the same effect in natural faults, as 
maiming and mutilation produce from accidents. So if 
the back be humped, the man is deformed, because his 
back has an unusual figure, and what carries with it the 
idea of some misfortune : so if a man's neck be consider-: 


ably longer or shorter than usual, we say he is deformed 
in that part, because men are not commonly made in 
that manner. But surely every hour's experience may 
convince us, that a man may have his legs of an equal 
length, and resembling each other in all respects, and his 
neck of a just size, and his back quite straight, without 
having at the same time the least perceivable beauty. 
Indeed, beauty is so far from belonging to the idea of 
custom, that, in reality, what affects us in that manner, 
is extremely rare and uncommon. The beautiful strikes 
us as much by its novelty, as the deformed itself."* 

Custom has precisely the same effect upon our ideas 
of relative magnitude or proportion, as on our ideas of 
figure. There is a certain breadth of the mouth, in pro- 
portion to the breadth of the whole face, which is mon- 
strous ; another opposite proportion equally monstrous. 
There is a certain middle limit, within which all propor- 
tions are equally removed from deformity. Mr. Burke 
contends, and in my humble opinion with great success, 
that proportion is never of itself the original cause of 
beauty. It is the cause of beauty, as it is an indication 
of strength and utility in buildings, of swiftness in ani- 
mals, of any feeling morally beautiful ; and it is agree- 
able, as it is customary in animals, or the proof of the 
absence of deformity ; but no proportion of itself, and 
without one of these reasons, ever pleases. No man 
would contend Nature ever intended that 6 to 2, or 9 to 
14, are perfection : that the moment a monkey could be 
discovered and brought to light, the length of whose ear 
was precisely the cube root of the length of his tail, that 
he ought to be set up as a model of perfect conformation 
to the whole simious tribe. Certain proportions are 
beautiful, as they indicate skill, swiftness, convenience, 
strength, or historical association ; and then philosophers 
copy these proportions, and determine that they must be 
originally and abstractedly beautiful, — applying that to 
the sign, which is only true of the thing indicated by the 

Custom has also the same effect upon magnitudes. 
Tall and short mean only unusual. The excellence of 

* Burke, p, 221. 


stature would lie within those limits where one height 
was equally common with another, were it not for the 
idea of utility which intervenes and overcomes the slight 
deviation from that which is most common. For in- 
stance : I believe there are many more Englishmen 
between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 9, than there are between 
5 feet 9 and 6 feet; but I believe Mr. Flaxman, in 
making a statue of a beautiful young man, would rather 
choose between the last proportion than the first, — 
because, though the deviation from custom would be 
greater, it would be compensated for by the superior 
notions of strength and energy it would convey. But 
every sculptor would undoubtedly take the commonest 
proportion between the nose and the chin he could dis- 
cover, because no superior pleasure would be gained by 
deviating from that proportion. Mr. Burke has a notion 
that things, to be beautiful, must be small, — that small- 
ness is one cause of beauty. This, I confess, I can not 
agree to. Little is a term of affection, but not a term 
of beauty : where the stature is small, we are rather in- 
clined to use some less powerful word than beautiful, as 
pretty. There is a certain feeling of admiration, a faint 
tinge of awe, connected with personal beauty, which, if 
not diminished, is certainly not assisted, by smallness. 
If smallness were one cause of beauty, we should have 
remarked it in the great mass of amatory poetry, which 
has been accumulating since the beginning of the world : 
the lover would have told his mistress, from time imme- 
morial, that she was so short that she could walk under 
his arm ; that she weighed less by 20 or 30 pounds than 
any other beauty in the neighborhood ; that he solemnly 
believed her only to be five feet ; and he would have 
diminished her down by elegant adulation, to think as 
lowly of herself as possible. I think if the poetical gen- 
tlemen who attend the Institution will recollect, they 
will rather find, when they speak of stature at all, that 
their adulation runs in an opposite channel ; and that, 
though they may speak of grand stately figures, they 
never allude to those remarkable only for weighing very 
little, and being shorter and thinner than the average of 
the human race. 


Having now gone through the various effects of mag- 
nitude, proportion, and figure, on beauty, I think I have 
said enough to explain the causes of the most remarkable 
sort of beauty, the beauty of the human face. I shall 
first take a very beautiful female face, entirely without 
expression, — why do we call that face beautiful ? Take 
twenty other faces, all devoid of expression ; why do we 
denominate the one beautiful, the others not ? The 
beautiful face is a most uncommon assemblage of com- 
mon figures, common proportions, common magnitudes, 
and common relations. Take all the other twenty, — the 
first has features too large, that is, larger than is common; 
the second violates proportion, that is, the customary 
proportion between the length of the forehead and the 
length of the chin is violated ; in a third, the figure of 
the mouth is extraordinary, it is not the average custom- 
ary figure of mouths. In the beautiful face alone, there 
is not a single deviation from custom : the figure of 
every feature is the average figure ; the magnitude the 
average magnitude ; the proportion each part bears to 
the other, the customary proportion. The only thing 
which is not average, and not customary, is the extra- 
ordinary assemblage of averages and common standards 
in one single face : that whereas all human faces deviate 
from the custom of Nature in some of their magnitudes, 
figures, and proportions, she has assembled, in this single 
face, one and all her models for every separate feature ; 
and indulged the eye of man, unused to excellence, w T ith 
the spectacle of that which is without spot, blemish, or 
objection. Now mind what we have to add to this bare 
assemblage of proportions, figures, and magnitudes : in 
the first place we add to it smoothness, a great cause of 
beauty ; then beautiful colors, which are also the signs 
of health, youth, and delicacy of feeling. It shall also 
express goodness, compassion, gentleness, an obliging 
spirit, and a mild wisdom ; and, putting all these power- 
ful causes together, I think I have said enough to explain 
the effects which personal beauty produces on the des- 
tinies of man. 

" These, when the Spartan queen approach'd the tower, 
In sprret own'd resistless beauty's power : 


They cried, ' No wonder such celestial charms 
' For nine long years had set the world in arms ; 
What winning graces, what majestic mien ! 
She looks a goddess, and she moves a queen !' " 

These are the causes which made all the old senators of 
Troy exclaim, at the sight of Helen, that the Trojans 
and the well-booted Greeks were by no means to blame 
for having endured such griefs so long a time for such a 
beautiful lady. 

All the beauty of motion I should suspect to be the re- 
sult of association. Motion is either quick or slow, di- 
rect or circuitous, uniform or irregular. Sometimes 
quick motion is not beautiful, from the association it ex- 
cites of violent resistance to the touch ; in other in- 
stances there is a want of variety, both in direct motion 
and in slow motion, which is tiresome. All motion 
which gives us the notion of ease, is beautiful ; of re- 
straint, is painful. All movements in human creatures, 
which express any feeling of mind which itself would be 
called beautiful, is as beautiful as the thing it signifies. 
The motion of a rivulet is beautiful from its variety ; of 
a balloon, from its ease ; and the apparent absence of 
effort of a sailing kite, from the same reason ; of a man 
of war moving slowly, for the same reason. 

Grace is either the beauty of motion, or the beauty of 
posture. Graceful motion is motion without difficulty 
or embarrassment ; or that which, from experience, we 
know to be connected with ingenious modesty, a desire 
to increase the happiness of others, or any beautiful 
moral feeling. A person walks up a long room, ob- 
served by a great number of individuals, and pays his re- 
spects as a gentleman ought to do ; — why is he grace- 
ful ? Because every movement of his body inspires you 
with some pleasing feeling ; he has the free and unem- 
barrassed use of his limbs ; his motions do not indicate 
forward boldness, or irrational timidity ; — the outward 
signs perpetually indicate agreeable qualities. The same 
explanation applies to grace of posture and attitude : 
that is a graceful attitude which indicates an absence of 
restraint; and facility, which is the sign of agreeable 
qualities of mind : apart from such indications, one atti- 


tude I should conceive to be quite as graceful as an- 

Mr. Burke has a long dissertation respecting the effect 
of utility or fitness, as a cause of beauty : he determines 
that it is not a cause of beauty, but I can not think this 
decision conformable with matter of fact. I took occa- 
sion to observe, in my last lecture, that the term beauty 
implied comparison, and that it was a term of the super- 
lative degree. Now certainly, mere utility, unaccom- 
panied by surprise, does never excite the feeling of 
beauty. There is nothing more useful than a plow, an 
axe, or a hammer, but nobody calls them beautiful ; but 
whenever utility is promoted by a surprising adaptation 
of means to ends, there the feeling of the beautiful is al- 
ways excited, unless counteracted by some accidental 
association. " Why," says Mr. Burke, " upon this prin- 
ciple of utility, the wedge-like snout of a sow, with its 
tough cartilage at the end, the little sunk eyes, and the 
whole make of the head, so well adapted to its offices of 
digging and rooting, would be extremely beautiful. " 
The great bag hanging to the bill of a pelican, a thing 
highly useful to this animal, would be likewise as beau- 
tiful in our eyes. In the first place, the pig is an animal 
degraded by all sorts of dirty associations, and therefore 
the instance is rather unfair: the bag of the pelican 
raises up, also, some association of disease ; and this is 
the notion both the one and the other excites in common 
minds. But the anatomist, who has examined the struc- 
ture of these parts carefully, and knows how they are 
composed, how moved, how connected with the rest of 
the body, is immediately struck with the feeling of the 
beautiful, and does not hesitate to denominate both the 
one and the other a beautiful provision of nature. In the 
same manner all the instances Mr. Burke quotes are easy 
to be answered, — porcupines and hedgehogs are well 
provided by nature with means of defense; but any thing 
associated with the idea of pain, wounds, and contention, 
is disagreeable. For the same reason, all the inventions 
of war, bombs, mines, cannon, — though they are useful, 
and excite surprise if they have not been often seen, — 
are never considered as beautiful, from the dreadful ideas 


with which they are connected. But I think it would 
be difficult to find any thing useful, done by a surprising 
adaptation of means to end, which would not be called 
beautiful. How beautiful is the adaptation of the con- 
densible nature of steam, to overcome the greatest ob- 
stacles in mechanics ! or that adaptation of the elastic 
power of air, to produce a continued stream in the en- 
gines employed for fires ! What is more useful than a 
saucepan ? nothing. — but the adaptation of means to the 
end excites no surprise. But what if a man were to in- 
vent a new and better kind of snuffers, effecting his ob- 
ject by a very striking method, — would that be beautiful ? 
Probably not ; the end proposed is so trifling, that we 
should rather feel a sort of contempt for the man who 
had lavished his talent upon such an object ; though it 
is very possible that the great ingenuity of the means 
may sanctify an object otherwise unimportant. Argand's 
lamp certainly deserves the appellation of a beautiful in- 
vention. Go to the Duke of Bedford's piggery at Wo- 
burn, and you will see a breed of pigs with legs so short, 
that their stomachs trail upon the ground : a breed of 
animals entombed in their own fat, overwhelmed with 
prosperity, success, and farina. No animal could pos- 
sibly be so disgusting if it were not useful ; but a breed- 
er, who has accurately attended to the small quantity of 
food it requires to swell this pig out to such extraordinary 
dimensions, — the astonishing genius it displays for obes- 
ity, — and the laudable propensity of the flesh to desert 
the cheap regions of the body, and to agglomerate on 
those parts which are worth ninepence a pound, — such 
an observer of its utility does not scruple to call these 
otherwise hideous quadrupeds, a beautiful race of pigs. 
It is asked if perfection is the cause of beauty ? Before 
the question is asked, it may be as well to determine 
what is meant by perfection ? It often means the super- 
lative of any thing. Perfect strength must mean the 
greatest strength that that species, or any other species, 
is accustomed to exhibit. Such strength would give no 
notion of beauty, nor would perfect swiftness ; but rather 
of the sublime : less perfect swiftness would be much 
naore likely to inspire us with the notion of the beautiful. 


What notion of beauty could perfect justice impart, or 
perfect courage ? 

Perfect symmetry is the symmetry which is the most 
beautiful, which I have before referred to custom ; I see 
no reason whatever for considering perfection as a cause 
of beauty. 

Variety is another very strong cause of beauty ; and 
this is the reason why we are so fond of natural objects, 
and is the cause of the great bustle made about nature. 
I have no doubt but that (all other things being equal) 
a regular figure is more beautiful than an irregular fig- 
ure, and that the principal reason why we are like the 
strange figures presented to us in a forest, among the 
boughs of the trees, or in a field by the irregular lay of 
the ground, is the perpetual gratification of this passion 
for variety which it affords. I went for the first time in 
my life, some years ago, to stay at a very grand and 
beautiful place in the country, where the grounds are 
said to be laid out with consummate taste. For the first 
three or four days I was perfectly enchanted ; it seemed 
something so much better than nature, that I really be- 
gan to wish the earth had been laid out according to the 
latest principles of improvement, and that the whole face 
of nature wore a little more the appearance of a park. 
In three days' time I was tired to death ; a thistle, a net- 
tle, a heap of dead bushes, any thing that wore the ap- 
pearance of accident and want of intention, was quite a 
relief. I used to escape from the made grounds, and 
walk upon an adjacent goose-common, where the cart- 
ruts, gravel-pits, bumps, irregularities, coarse ungentle- 
manlike grass, and all the varieties produced by neglect, 
were a thousand times more gratifying than the mo- 
notony of beauties the result of design, and crowded into 
narrow confines with a luxuriance and abundance utter- 
ly unknown to nature. 

When we speak of a beautiful landscape, we include 
under that term a vast variety of sensations, — the beauty 
of colors, of smells, and of sounds. It would be difficult 
to look at milch cattle without thinking of the fragrance 
of their milk, — or at hay in the haymaking season, 
without enjoying in imagination its delightful smell. 


"As one who long in populous city pent, 
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air, 
Forth issuing on a summer's morn to breathe 
Among the pleasant villages and farms 
Adjoin'd, from each tiling met conceives delight ; 
The smell of grain, or tedded grass, or kine, 
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound ; 
If chance, with nymph-like step, fair virgin pass, 
What pleasing seem'd, for her now pleases more ; 
She most, and in her look sums all delight." 

To the beauty of sounds, smells, and colors, is to be 
added the beauty of variety, the notion of liberty, of 
health, of innocence, the association of a childhood passed 
in the country, of the happy days every man has spent 
there, — all that Virgil has written, and Claude painted, 
of the country, — the beautiful exertions of the highest 
minds to make that fairer which God has made so fair, 
— all these feelings go to make up the beauty of land- 
scape, and give birth, by their united force, to that calm 
pleasure which has been felt in every age by those who 
have raised their minds above the struggles of passion, 
and the emotions of sense. Then every man, in looking 
at a landscape, paints to himself that scene of imaginary 
felicity he likes best; a merchant looks at an asylum 
from the toils of business ; a mother marks out a healthy 
and sheltered spot for her children ; an improver plants ; 
a poet feels ; an old man builds himself a retired cottage, 
and gradually wears away his remaining days amid the 
health and quiet of the fields. A landscape is every thing 
to every body; it is one person's property as well as 
another's ; it gratifies every man's desire, and fills up 
every man's heart. 

The beauties of architecture I should conceive to be 
referable to the beauties of utility, of regularity, of del- 
icacy, and of association. Why is the west window of 
the cathedral at York beautiful? Let us endeavor to 
follow what passes in the mind, in looking at this cele- 
brated piece of architecture. It is, in the first place, 
Gothic, and there is an association in favor of Gothic 
architecture ; we have heard it is beautiful, and are pre- 
pared to admire it. The stone-work is very light, and 
therefore does not obstruct the passage of the sun's 


rays ; nor does it give us the idea of labor uselessly 
employed, but, on the contrary, the idea of delicacy, 
which I have before stated to be a cause of beauty. It 
is full of regular figures, neatly cut, which it is not easy 
to make of stone. The whole is a regular figure, and 
bears a just proportion to the size of the building. As 
to the different orders of architecture, it is quite impossi- 
ble to assent to the observations of those who would 
contend that their proportions are absolutely beautiful, — 
that nature has made these proportions originally a 
cause of that feeling, independent of any utility to which 
those proportions may be subservient, and of any asso- 
ciation with which they may be connected. The 
common sense of the business appears to me to be 
this : — I see a pillar ; I conceive it, as erected, to support 
something. I know the nature of stone, and its strength. 
If the proportions are so managed that I conceive the 
thing to be supported, will fall, it gives me the idea of 
weakness and frailty, which is unpleasant : if they are 
such as to indicate a much greater degree of strength 
than is wanted, then I am equally disgusted. Between 
these two extremes, all proportions are naturally of equal 
beauty ; the rest is done by Pericles, Miltiades, the 
battle of Thermopylae, and all the military and literary 
glory of the Greeks. There is an excellent chapter in 
Mr. Alison's book, upon the orders of architecture, in 
which he, to my mind, sets this matter in the clearest 
point of view, and shows that in this instance, as well as 
in all others, the pleasure arising from the proportions of 
the orders, is to be referred to the utility of those propor- 
tions, or to the associations which they excite. 

" The proportions of these orders," says Mr. Alison, 
" it is to be remembered, are distinct subjects of beauty 
from the ornaments with which they are embellished, 
from the magnificence with which they are executed, 
from the purposes of elegance they are intended to serve, 
or the scenes of grandeur they are destined to adorn. 
It is in such scenes, however, and with such additions, 
that we are accustomed to observe them : and while we 
feel the effect of all these accidental associations, we are 
seldom willing to examine what are the causes of the 


complex emotions we feel ; and readily attribute to the 
nature of the architecture itself, the whole pleasure 
which we enjoy. 

" But, beside these, there are other associations we 
have with these forms, that still more powerfully serve 
to command our admiration, for they are the Grecian 
orders : they derive their origin from those times, and 
were the ornaments of those countries, which are most 
hallowed in our imaginations ; and it is difficult for us to 
see them, even in their modern copies, without feeling 
them operate upon our minds as relics of those polished 
nations where they first arose, and of that greater people 
by whom they were afterward borrowed. 

" While this species of architecture is attended with so 
many and so pleasing associations, it is difficult, even for 
a man of reflection, to distinguish between the different 
sources of his emotion ; or, in the moments in which this 
delight is felt, to ascertain what is the exact portion of 
his pleasure which is to be attributed to these propor- 
tions alone. And two different causes combine to lead 
us to attribute to the style of architecture itself, the 
beauty which arises from many other associations. 

"In the first place, while it is under our eye, this 
architecture itself is the great object of our regard, and 
the central object of all these associations. It is the 
material sign, in fact, of all the various affecting qualities 
which are connected with it ; and it disposes us in this, 
as in every other case, to attribute to the sign, the effect 
which is produced by the qualities signified. 

" When we reflect, upon the other hand, in our calmer 
moments, upon the source of our emotion, another 
motive arises to induce us to consider these proportions 
as the sole, or the principal, cause of our pleasure ; for 
these proportions are the only qualities of the object 
which are perfectly or accurately ascertained. They 
have received the assent of all ages since their discovery ; 
they are the acknowledged objects of beauty ; and, 
having thus got possession of one undoubted principle, 
our natural love of system induces us to ascribe the 
whole of the effect to this principle alone, and easily 


satisfies our minds, by saving us the trouble of a long and 
tedious investigation. 

" That this cause has had its full effect in this case, 
will, I believe, appear very evident to those who attend 
to the enthusiasm with which, in general, the writers on 
architecture speak of the beauty of proportion, and 
compare it with the common sentiments of men, upon 
the subject of this beauty. Both these causes conspire 
to mislead our judgment in this point, and to induce us 
to attribute to one quality, in such objects, that beauty 
which, in truth, results from many united qualities."* 

In my next lecture I shall conclude this subject of 
the beautiful, and sum up all that I have said upon it. 
If any man feel himself inclined to think that I have 
pushed this subject of the beautiful too far, and that its 
importance does not merit such long discussion, I would 
desire him to reflect upon the immense effect which it 
produces on human life. What are half the crimes in 
the world committed for ? What brings into action the 
best virtues ? The desire of possessing. Of possessing 
what ? — not mere money, but every species of the beau- 
tiful which money can purchase. A man lies hid in a 
little, dirty, smoky room for twenty years of his life, and 
sums up as many columns of figures as would reach 
round half the earth, if they were laid at length ; — he 
gets rich ; what does he do with his riches ? He buys a 
large, well-proportioned house : in the arrangement of 
his furniture, he gratifies himself with all the beauty 
which splendid colors, regular figures, and smooth 
surfaces, can convey ; he has the beauties of variety and 
association in his grounds ; the cup out of which he 
drinks his tea is adorned with beautiful figures ; the 
chair in which he sits is covered with smooth, shining 
leather ; his table-cloth is of the most beautiful damask ; 
mirrors reflect the lights from every quarter of the room ; 
pictures of the best masters feed his eye with all the 
beauties of imitation. A million of human creatures are 
employed in this country in ministering to this feeling of 
the beautiful. It is only a barbarous, ignorant people 
that can ever be occupied by the necessaries of life alone, 

* Alison, pp. 367-369. 


If to eat, and to drink, and to be warm, were the only- 
passions of our minds, we should all be what the lowest 
of us all are at this day. The love of the beautiful calls 
man to fresh exertions, and awakens him to a more 
noble life ; and the glory of it is, that as painters imitate, 
and poets sing, and statuaries carve, and architects rear 
up the gorgeous trophies of their skill, — as every thing 
becomes beautiful, and orderly, and magnificent, — the 
activity of the mind rises to still greater, and to better 
objects. The principles of justice are sought out; the 
powers of the ruler, and the rights of the subject, are 
fixed ; man advances to the enjoyment of rational 
liberty, and to the establishment of those great moral 
laws, which God has written in our hearts, to regulate 
the destinies of the world. 



I wish, for the completion of the subject on which I 
have been engaged, to consider what causes produce the 
feeling of the beautiful in poetry. I must observe here, 
as I observed before, that there is a lax and general 
usage of the word beautiful, to which I am not now 
referring. We might say of Milton's Paradise Lost, 
that it is a beautiful poem, though its characteristic is 
rather grandeur and sublimity, than beauty. It is a 
general term, standing for every species of excellence ; 
but I am speaking now of that which is properly beau- 
tiful, as distinguished from what is sublime or excellent 
in any other kind. 

The first reason, then, why poetry is beautiful, is, be- 
cause it describes natural objects, or moral feelings, 
which are themselves beautiful. For an example, I will 
read to you a beautiful sonnet of Dr. Leyden's upon the 
Sabbath morning, which has never been printed : — 

" With silent awe I hail the sacred morn, 

"Which slowly wakes while all the fields are still ; 
A soothing calm on every breeze is borne, 

A graver murmur gurgles from the rill, 

And Echo answers softer from the hill, 
And softer sings the linnet from the thorn, 

The skylark warbles in a tone less shrill. 
Hail, light serene ! hail, sacred Sabbath morn ! 
The rooks float silent by, in airy drove ; 

The sun, a placid yellow luster shows ; 
The gales, that lately sigh'd along the grove, 

Have hush'd their downy wings in dead repose ; 
The hov'ring rack of clouds forget to move : — 

So smiled the day when the first morn arose !" 


Now, there is not a single image introduced into this 
very beautiful sonnet, which is not of itself beautiful ; 
the soothing calm of the breeze, the noise of the rill, the 
song of the linnet, the hovering rack of clouds, and the 
airy drove of rooks floating by, are all objects that would 
be beautiful in nature, and of course are so in poetry. 
The notion that the w^hole appearance of the world is 
more calm and composed on the Sabbath, and that its 
sanctity is felt in the whole creation, is unusually beau- 
tiful and poetical. There is a pleasure in imitation, — 
this is exactly a picture of what a beautiful placid morn- 
ing is, and we are delighted to see it so well repre- 

There is also a certain degree of pleasure from the 
measure of the poetry, — from the recurrence of certain 
cadences at certain intervals ; — this makes the distinc- 
tion between the language of prose and poetry. Now, 
in which of these two passages are the sounds most 
agreeably arranged : — " The master saw the madness 
rising, took notice of his glowing cheeks and his ardent 
eyes, and, while he defied heaven and earth, changed his 
own hand, and checked the pride of Alexander. He 
chose a mournful song, in order to infuse into him soft 
pity ; he sung of Darius, a very great and good man," — 
and so on. 

" The master saw the madness rise ; 
His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes ; 
And, while he Heaven and Earth defied, 
Changed his hand, and check'd his pride. 

He chose a mournful muse 

Soft pity to infuse : 
He sung Darius great and good, 

By too severe a fate, 
Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen, 
Fallen from his high estate, 

And welt'ring in his blood ; 
Deserted, at his utmost need, 
By those his former bounty fed : 
On the bare earth exposed he lies, 
With not a friend to close his eyes. 
With downcast looks the joyless victor sate, 

Revolving in his alter'd soul 

The various turns of Chance below ; 

And, now and then, a sigh he stole ; 
And tears began to flow." 


Now, the ideas are precisely the same in the two ar- 
rangements of sounds ; but I think no one can doubt of 
the superior pleasure of that order of sounds, in which 
there appears to be arrangement and design. 

Part of the pleasure proceeds also from the rhymes. 
Children will go on for ten minutes together, repeating 
a rhyme, merely delighted with the sameness of the 
sound : so will mad people. I have seen laborers and 
common people in the country, quite delighted with the 
accidental discovery of a rhyme ; it has appeared to have 
very much the same effect upon them as wit. I mention 
these things very cursorily, because they are connected 
with my subject of the beautiful, though they are facts 
of great curiosity, and which may lead to very interest- 
ing speculations, which I have no doubt they will do, in 
the very able hands in which they are at present placed 
by the managers of this Institution. 

To these causes may be added a strong admiration of 
the skill of the poet, whether exemplified in his selection 
of words, or his choice of the most striking objects and 
incidents in description. These, I apprehend to be the 
causes which excite the feeling of the beautiful in poetry, 
where the subject itself is beautiful. But what is the 
reason that poetry is called beautiful, where the subject 
is quite the reverse ? There might be a very beautiful 
description of the flat, dreary fens of Holland, which are 
themselves as far from being beautiful as any natural 
scenery can be. Now, here is a passage out of Thom- 
son, in which there is not a single image naturally beau- 
tiful, and yet the whole passage certainly must be so 
called : — 

" When o'er this world, by equinoctial rains 
Flooded immense, looks out the joyless sun, 
And draws the copious stream ; from swampy fens, 
Where putrefaction into life ferments, 
And breathes destructive myriads ; or from woods, 
Impenetrable shades, recesses foul, 
In vapors rank and blue corruption wrapt, 
Whose gloomy horrors yet no desperate foot, 
Has ever dared to pierce — then, wasteful, forth 
Walks the dire power of pestilent disease. 
A thousand hideous fiends her course attend, 
Sick nature blasting 1 , and to heartless woe, 


And feeble desolation, casting down 
The towering hopes and all the pride of man. 
Such as, of late, at Cartagena quench'd 
The British fire. You, gallant Vernon, saw 
The miserable scene ; you, pitying, saw 
To infant weakness sunk the warrior's arm ; 
Saw the deep racking pang, the ghastly form. 
The lip pale quivering, and the beamless eye 
No more with ardor bright ; you heard the groans 
Of agoni ing ships, from shore to shore ; 
Heard, nightly plung'd amid the sullen waves, 
The frequent corse — while on each other fix'd, 
In sad presage, the blank assistants seem'd 
Silent, to ask, whom fate would next demand."* 

The question is, why is such an extraordinary assem- 
blage of unbeautiful images beautiful ? In the first 
place, the mention or description of putrefaction, stag- 
nation of air, and consequent plague, is of course not so 
disgusting or horrible as the reality : the obstacles to 
the feeling of the beautiful are immensely overcome, in 
comparison to that degree of force which they would 
possess if these things were seen and felt instead of 
read. Then there is a certain pleasure of security in 
reading the description of danger, or of comfort in 
reading the description of disgust. I think we should 
all be conscious of the feeling of security, in reading 
Thomson's celebrated description of a snow-storm, and 
of the father perishing while his children are looking 
out for him and demanding their sire. Add to all this, 
the same causes of the beautiful which exist in beautiful 
subjects, — the meter, the cadence, choice of language, 
and admiration of skill, — and their united force will ex- 
plain the reason why poetry is beautiful, when the sub- 
ject, in nature, would be much otherwise ; though, I 
suppose (all other things being equal), the more beauti- 
ful the subject, the more beautiful the poem. 

This also is to be said, that some passions, though 
painful when very strong, are agreeable when weaker. 
It would be horrible to be staying at a house on a snowy 
night, where there was every reason to believe that the 
husband would perish on his road home over a bleak 
common ; and nothing could be more dreadful than to 

* Summer, ver. 1026-1051. 


see the agony of the mother and the children. But 
poetical snow is so much less dangerous than real snow, 
and poetical wives and children always excite our com- 
passion so much less than wives and children devoid of 
all rhyme and meter, and composed of prosaic flesh and 
blood, that the degree of compassion excited is rather 
pleasing than painful. 

The beautiful in painting seems to be quite referable 
to the same causes, — the pleasures of imitation, the 
reflex pleasure of natural beauty, the pleasure of skill ; 
and where the subject itself is not beautiful, there, re- 
flected horror is less intense than real or original horror, 
and a certain pleasure is enjoyed from the consciousness 
that we are exempt from the evil we behold. 

Throughout the whole of my lectures on the beauti- 
ful, in my explanation of the beauty of exterior objects, 
I have thought it sufficient to trace their connection 
with feelings of the mind, which have received that ap- 
pellation. It therefore becomes necessary I should state 
what those feelings are. To class feelings with the same 
precision with which it is possible to arrange earths, and 
stone, and minerals, is a degree of order in these mat- 
ters, which the most ardent metaphysician, unassisted by 
lunacy, will of course never attempt to attain. The 
similarity of feelings is not a truth which it is possible 
to prove ; it must be left to every man's inward reflec- 
tion to determine, and to his candor to confess ; and, 
after all, opinions upon such subjects must always fall 
far short of that clearness of conviction, which is easily 
obtained upon physical subjects. 

The emotions of the mind may be divided into pain- 
ful and pleasing, and the pleasing into calm emotions and 
tumultuous emotions ; and the beautiful, I believe, com- 
prehends almost every calm emotion of pleasure. I am 
using old and well-established phrases, when I speak of 
calm and tumultuous emotions, and (which is rather a 
bold thing to say in the language adopted for the phe- 
nomena of mind) I really believe they have some mean- 
ing. The names have evidently been derived from the 
outward bodily signs of the two kinds of emotion ; and no 
one can doubt, but that what passes in the mind on such 


occasions, is just as different as what appears in the face 
and actions, which are the indications of the mind. The 
joy of a washerwoman who has just got the £20,000 
prize in the lottery, and the joy of a sensible, worthy 
man, who has just succeeded in rescuing a family from 
distress, are both feelings of pleasure ; but while the one 
is dancing in frantic rapture round her tubs, the signs 
by which the other indicates his satisfaction are char- 
acteristic of nothing but tranquillity and peace. 

If, then, the beautiful in feeling includes every calm 
emotion of pleasure, it must of course comprehend con- 
tent, — health leading to serenity of body and mind ; 
not when it breaks out into violence of action (the ab- 
sence of restraint). It must include innocence, affection, 
and even esteem, as well as benevolence : it also in- 
cludes ingenuity mingled with utility, or the surprising 
adaptation of means to useful ends ; and a long catalogue 
of feelings, which are pleasing as well as calm. These 
seem to be the characteristics which have governed men 
in their usage of this term. No feeling which excites 
pain can be beautiful. There is nothing beautiful in 
envy, hatred, or malice, in cruelty and oppression : but 
when we see a man bearing testimony to the merit of 
his rival, that is beautiful ; when real injuries are rapidly 
forgiven, that is beautiful. When any human being, 
who has power and influence to defend his oppressions, 
is as just and considerate to the feelings of others, as if 
he were poor and defenseless, that is eminently beautiful, 
and gives to every human being who beholds it, the 
purest emotion of joy. I have said a great deal about 
prospect and landscape ; I will mention an action or two, 
which appear to me to convey as distinct a feeling of 
the beautiful, as any landscape whatever. A London 
merchant, who, I believe, is still alive, while he was 
staying in the country with a friend, happened to men- 
tion that he intended, the next year, to buy a ticket in 
the lottery ; his friend desired he would buy one for him 
at the same time, which of course was very willingly 
agreed to. The conversation dropped, the ticket never 
arrived, and the whole affair was entirely forgotten, 
when the country gentleman received information that 


the ticket purchased for him by his friend, had come up 
a prize of £20,000. Upon his arrival in London, he 
inquired of his friend where he had put the ticket, and 
why he had not informed him that it was purchased. 
" I bought them both the same day, mine and your 
ticket, and I flung them both into a drawer of my 
bureau, and I never thought of them afterward." " But 
how do you distinguish one ticket from the other ? and 
why am I the holder of the fortunate ticket, more than 
you ?" " Why, at the time I put them into the drawer, 
I put a little mark in ink upon the ticket which I re- 
solved should be yours ; and upon re-opening the drawer, 
I found that the one so marked was the fortunate ticket." 
Now this action appears to me perfectly beautiful ; it is 
le beau ideal in morals, and gives that calm, yet deep 
emotion of pleasure, which every one so easily receives 
from the beauty of the exterior world. 

There is a very pretty story which I shall read to you, 
and which, to my mind, is a complete instance of the 
beautiful in morals. 

" At the siege of Namur by the Allies, there were in 
the ranks of the company commanded by Captain Pin- 
sent, in Colonel Frederick Hamilton's regiment, one 
Unnion, a corporal, and one Valentine, a private sentinel. 
There happened between these two men a dispute about 
a matter of love, which, upon some aggravations, grew 
to an irreconcilable hatred. Unnion, being the officer 
of Valentine, took all opportunities even to strike his 
rival, and profess his spite and revenge which moved 
him to it ; the sentinel bore it without resistance, but 
frequently said he would die to be revenged of that 
tyrant. They had spent whole months thus, one injuring, 
the other complaining ; when, in the midst of this rage 
toward each other, they were commanded upon the 
attack of the castle, where the corporal received a shot 
in the thigh and 'fell. The French pressing on, and he 
expecting to be trampled to death, called out to his 
enemy, ' Ah, Valentine, can you leave me here ?' Valen- 
tine immediately ran back, and, in the midst of a thick 
fire of the French, took the corporal upon his back, and 
brought him through all that danger as far as the Abbey 


of Salsine, where a cannon-ball took off his head : his 
body fell under his enemy whom he was carrying off 
Unnion immediately forgot his wound, rose up, tearing 
his hair, and then threw himself upon the bleeding car- 
cass, crying, ' Ah, Valentine ! was it for me, who have 
so barbarously used thee, that thou hast died ! I will 
not live after thee/ He was not by any means to be 
forced from the body, but was removed with it bleeding 
in his arms, and attended with tears by all their com- 
rades who knew their enmity. When he was brought 
to a tent, his wounds were dressed by force ; but the 
next day, still calling upon Valentine, and lamenting his 
cruelties to him, he died in the pangs of remorse and 

" It may be a question among men of noble sentiment, 
whether of these unfortunate persons had the greater 
soul — he that was so generous as to venture his life for 
his enemy, or he who could not survive the man who 
died in laying upon him such an obligation ?"* 

These are the beautiful feelings which lie hidden in 
every man's heart, which alone make life worth having, 
and prevent us from looking upon the world as a den 
of wild beasts, thirsting for each other's blood. 

There are some feelings that are always beautiful, 
such as content and benevolence ; there are others that 
appear to be beautiful, exactly according to the degree 
in which they are felt, or to the other feelings with 
which they are mingled. We compassionate a man who 
has broken both his legs, but the feeling is accompanied 
with too much pain, and is far too tumultuous, to be 
called beautiful. 

I should compassionate two young people who were 
just married, and who, after their marriage, had expe- 
rienced a loss of fortune that reduced them to embar- 
rassments ; but this feeling of compassion, being much 
less violent and tumultuous, approaches much nearer to 
the beautiful. All description in poetry, or imitation in 
painting, of any degree of compassion, would be so much 
less powerful than the real observation of it in nature, 
that it might convey the feeling of the beautiful. The 

* Tatler, No. V. p. 18. 


real compassion we should have felt for Lady Randolph 
deploring the loss of her son, if there had been a real 
Lady Randolph, would have been a feeling much too 
violent for the beautiful ; but, lowered and diminished 
by the imperfect deception of imitation, or the refrig- 
erating medium of description, it is brought to the stan- 
dard which renders it compatible with that feeling. It 
appears also, that those feelings which are the reverse 
of beautiful may, in poetry and in painting, be rendered 
compatible with it, by being softened and lowered from 
that intense effect they produce in real nature, — by being 
joined with harmonious sounds, conveyed in metrical 
language, — by exciting admiration of skill, and gratifying 
that pleasure which results from accurate imitation. 

I consider mere imitation, rather as an auxiliary to 
the feeling of the beautiful, than as sufficient to produce 
it of itself. Mere imitation is agreeable, but I question 
if it ever excites, alone, the feeling of the beautiful. 
Could the most accurate drawing of a rat, or a weasel, 
ever be beautiful ? — or, if it be contended that these are 
animals which excite disgusting associations, could the 
accurate drawing of a block of Portland stone, or of 
mahogany, ever be beautiful? If mere imitation can 
excite the feeling of beauty, these subjects, well imitated, 
ought to come up to that character, which I hardly think 
they ever could. 

Thus, then, I have, with some pains to myself (and I 
am afraid with much more to my audience), gone through 
this subject of the beautiful ; a subject certainly of great 
difficulty, and on which probable opinion must be ex- 
pected, rather than certain conviction. To silence 
opposition on such a subject, is of course impossible : 
every man, in discussing it, must fling himself upon the 
candor of his audience, and, instead of defying their 
objections, request them to assist him in overcoming 

One method of trying the justice of what I have said 
respecting the beautiful, will be, to see what is meant by 
the opposite expression of ugliness. An ugly face is a 
face which is not smooth, nor of a clear, transparent 
color ; which expresses unpleasant passions, and where 



the magnitudes, proportions, and figures, are very un- 
customary. An ugly landscape is one devoid of variety, 
of beautiful color ; and which excites feelings of dreari- 
ness, coldness, and disease, rather than of warmth, health, 
and enjoyment. An ugly animal is one, in the con- 
formation of which, the custom of nature is violated, or 
which excites the associations of sloth, gluttony, inutility, 
and malice, rather than the opposite of all these qualities. 
If pigs did not make such excellent hams, they would be 
the most detestable of all animals on the face of the 
earth ; and, accordingly, all nations that do not eat them, 
hate them : they are only restored to favor upon condi- 
tion of being dressed for dinner. 

Ugly buildings, are buildings in which the figures are 
not regular, nor the divisions convenient, nor the propor- 
tions such as are associated with durability, or elegance, 
or any pleasant impression. In ugly music, if I may use 
the expression, the sound is not in itself pleasing, and it 
conveys no pleasing association. In short, we shall al- 
ways find, that in using this word, which is the exact 
contrary to beauty, we shall always be influenced by the 
absence of those causes, from which I, and many others 
before me, have stated the feeling of the beautiful to 
proceed. The sum, then, of what I have said on these 
subjects is, that there is a mere beauty of matter, — or 
rather I should say a feeling of the mind, occasioned by 
certain qualities of matter, to which we have given the 
name of the beautiful ; and other feelings of the mind, 
not occasioned by the intervention of any thing mate- 
rial, which are found to resemble the first class, and 
have received the same name. How it comes about 
that large masses of green or blue light should produce 
any effects similar to those which are produced by be- 
nevolence, — that there should be such an analogy between 
content and smoothness, between any material and any 
moral beauty — I can not take upon me to determine ; but 
that consent among mankind so to consider them, 
evinced by the language of many countries, is an evi- 
dence that there is some real foundation in nature for 
the resemblance. The emotion produced by both, is 
calm and gentle : both are pleasing : both lose their char- 


acter of the beautiful, the moment that they hurry the 
mind into any tumultuous sensation, or afflict it with any 
degree of pain. What was the intention of Providence, 
in creating this affinity between our minds and the planet 
on which we dwell, it would be rash, perhaps, to conjec- 
ture. The effects of it, however, I can not help thinking, 
are often very perceptible. The mind, composed by the 
beauty of natural objects, is brought into that state, in 
which the beautiful in morals spontaneously rises up to 
its notice, and, amid the fragrance and verdure of the 
earth, is still more refreshed by the feeling of the mild 
and amiable virtues. In the stillness of an evening in 
the summer, when every sense is gratified by the beau- 
ties of the creation, we have all felt the kindred beauties 
of the mind ; we have all felt disposed to forgiveness on 
such moments, to pity, to kindness, to be gracious and 
merciful to every created being ; we have felt ourselves 
drawn toward virtue by some invisible power, and be- 
trayed into the gentlest and happiest tenor of mind. If 
the very form and color of things have a tendency to 
guide the mind of man to rectitude of thought, and pro- 
priety of action, it is a new proof of the goodness of 
Providence, and gives fresh dignity to that class of feel- 
ings which have hitherto been considered to exist for 
pleasure alone. 

" For as old Memnon's image, long renown' d 
By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch 
Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string 
Consenting, sounded through the warbling air 
Unbidden strains ; even so did Nature's hand 
To certain species of external things, 
Attune the finer organs of the mind : 
So the glad impulse of congenial powers, 
Or of sweet sounds, or fair-proportion'd form, 
The grace of motion, or the bloom of light, 
Thrills through Imagination's tender frame, 
From nerve to nerve : all naked and alive 
They catch the spreading rays ; till now the soul 
At length discloses every tuneful spring, 
To that harmonious movement from without 
Responsive. Then the inexpressive strain 
Diffuses its enchantment : Fancy dreams 
Of sacred fountains and Elysian groves, 
And vales of bliss : the intellectual power 
Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear 


And smiles : the passions, gently sooth' d away, 
Sinks to divine repose, and love and joy 
Alone are -waking ; love and joy, serene 
As airs that fan the summer."* 

There is another class of objects — the picturesque — 
which have given rise to various controversies between 
some very ingenious gentlemen ; and which have, from 
the elegance of the subject, and the very pleasing man- 
ner in which it has been discussed, attracted a consider- 
able share of attention. 

Mr. Gilpin defines picturesque objects to be those 
which please from some quality capable of being illus- 
trated in painting, or such objects as are proper for 
painting. Mr. Price attempts to show that the pictur- 
esque has a character no less separate and distinct, than 
either the sublime, or the beautiful ; and quite as much 
independent of the art of painting. The characteristics 
of the beautiful, are smoothness and gradual variation ; 
those of the picturesque, directly the reverse, — rough- 
ness, and sudden variation. A temple of Grecian archi- 
tecture in its smooth state, is beautiful ; in its ruin, is 
picturesque. Symmetry, which, in works of art, accords 
with the beautiful, is in the same degree adverse to the 
picturesque. Many old buildings, such as hovels, cot- 
tages, mills, ragged insides of old barns and stables, when- 
ever they have any peculiar effect of light, form, tint, or 
shadow, are eminently picturesque ; though they have 
not a pretension to be called either grand or beautiful. 
Smooth water is beautiful, rough water picturesque. 
The smooth young ash, the fresh tender beech, are beau- 
tiful; the rugged old oak, and knotty whych-elm, pic- 
turesque. In animals, the same distinction prevails. The 
ass is more picturesque than the horse. Of horses, the 
wild forester, with his rough coat, his mane, and tail, 
ragged and uneven, or the worn-out cart-horse, with his 
staring bones, are the most picturesque. The pictur- 
esque abhors sleekness, plumpness, smoothness, and con- 
vexity, in animals. Among our own species, beggars, 
gipsys, and all such rough, tattered figures as are mere- 
ly picturesque, bear a close analogy, in all the qualities 
* Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination book 1. 


that make them so, to old hovels and mills, to the wild 
forest horse, and other objects of the same kind. " If 
we ascend/' adds Mr. Price, '• to the highest order of 
created beings, as painted by the grandest of our poets, 
they, in their state of glory and happiness, raise no ideas 
but those of beauty and sublimity. The picturesque 
(as in earthly objects) only shows itself when they are 
in a state of ruin ; when shadows have obscured their 
original brightness, and that uniform, though angelic, ex- 
pression of pure love and joy, has been destroyed by a 
variety of warring passions. 

1 Darken'd so, yet shone 
Above them all the Archangel ; but his face 
Deep scars of thunder had entrench'd, and care 
Sat on his faded cheek, and under brows 
Of dauntless courage and considerate pride 
Waiting revenge ; cruel his eye, but cast 
Signs of remorse and passion.' "* 

Mr. Price then goes on to show, that these two char- 
acters of the picturesque and beautiful, are perfectly dis- 
tinguishable in painting and in grounds. He traces it 
in color ; and maintains that there is a picturesque in 
taste and in smell. One principal effect of smoothness, 
according to Mr. Burke and Mr. Price, the essential 
characteristic of beauty, is, that it gives an appear- 
ance of quiet and repose to all objects ; roughness, on 
the contrary, a spirit and animation. Hence, where 
there is a want of smoothness, there will be a want of 
repose ; and where there is no roughness, there is a 
want of spirit and stimulus. Picturesqueness, therefore, 
appears in this theory to hold a station between beauty 
and sublimity ; and, on that account, to be more fre- 
quently and happily blended with them both, than they 
are with each other ; it is, however, distinct from either. 
It is not the beautiful, because it is founded on qualities 
totally opposite to the beautiful — on roughness, and 
sudden variation ; on that of age, and even of decay. 
It is not the sublime, because it has nothing to do with 
greatness of dimensions, and is found in the smallest 
as well as the largest objects ; it inspires no feelings of 
* Price on the Picturesque, p. 71. 


awe and terror, like the sublime : the picturesque loves 
boundaries, — infinity is one of the efficient causes of 
the sublime. Lastly : uniformity, which is so great an 
enemy to the picturesque, is not only compatible with 
the sublime, but often the cause of it. Concerning the 
elegance with which this dissertation on the picturesque 
is expressed, and the ingenuity with which it is con- 
ceived, there can, I should think, be but one opinion ; 
it is not often, in such difficult investigations, that per- 
spicuity, acuteness, good taste, and admirable writing, 
are so eminently united. But, however, it is not quite 
so easy to determine upon the real truth and justice 
which the system contains. One thing seems quite 
clear, that Mr. Price has chosen a very bad word for the 
class of feelings which he conceives himself to have dis- 
covered ; nor does he, in my humble opinion, at all 
justify it, by what he says of its etymology. The word 
will naturally be taken by every body for that which is 
fit to make a good picture ; and so, according to the 
genius of our language, it ought to be taken ; and one 
of the most considerable difficulties Mr. Price's theory 
will have to encounter, will be that of affixing any other 
meaning to this expression of the picturesque. With 
respect to the theory itself, the first question seems to 
be, Is there any class of objects, to be distinguished by 
any assignable circumstances, which inspire the mind 
with a common feeling ? This, Mr. Price has, I think, 
proved clearly enough. All the objects he has men- 
tioned — the old horse, the jackass, the mill, the beggar 
— do arrest the attention, and arrest it in a similar 
manner ; and not merely with a reference to the art of 
painting, for a person wholly unacquainted with pictures, 
but who had leisure to contemplate the appearances of 
natural objects, would probably notice these, which I 
have mentioned, and refer them to one class, from the 
similar manner in which they affected his mind. They 
all rouse the mind agreeably, and provoke instant atten- 
tion. After the first sensation is over, the different 
objects lead the mind into a different set of feelings, 
according to the particular nature of each object ; but 
there is I think one common sensation they excite at 


first, which establishes a common nature, and justifies 
the classification of Mr. Price. These are very difficult 
subjects to speculate upon, and not quite as important 
as they are difficult ; but I should rather think it might 
be the very faintest feeling of grandeur or sublimity 
which Mr. Price distinguishes under the appellation of 
picturesque. Sudden variation, for instance, in a great 
scale, is most commonly either grand or sublime ; it sets 
all the faculties up in arms, and communicates that feel- 
ing of faint danger, which is so necessary an ingredient 
to the sublime. To come upon a sudden on a yawning 
abyss, unless the danger be imminent, is sublime. The 
sudden variation from the hill country of Gloucester- 
shire to the Vale of Severn, as observed from Birdlip, 
or Frowcester Hill, is strikingly sublime. You travel 
for twenty or five-and-twenty miles over one of the most 
unfortunate, desolate countries under heaven, divided 
by stone walls, and abandoned to screaming kites and 
larcenous crows; after traveling really twenty, and to 
appearance ninety miles, over this region of stone and 
sorrow, life begins to be a burden, and you wish to perish. 
At the very moment when you are taking this melan- 
choly view of human affairs, and hating the postilion, 
and blaming the horses, there bursts upon your view, 
with all its towers, forests, and streams, the deep and 
shaded Vale of Severn. Sterility and nakedness are 
thrown in the background : as far as the eye can reach, 
all is comfort, opulence, product, and beauty : now it is 
an ancient city, or a fair castle rising out of the forests, 
and now the beautiful Severn is noticed winding among 
the cultivated fields, and the cheerful habitations of 
men. The train of mournful impressions is quite 
effaced, and you descend rapidly into a vale of plenty, 
with a heart full of wonder and delight. Now the effect 
produced by sudden variation on a great scale, impresses 
itself, perhaps, on the mind, and is not forgotten on lesser 
occasions ; and what Mr. Price calls the picturesque 
may be the faintest state of this feeling, which requires 
nothing but greater dimensions to exalt itself into the real 
sublime. I only mention this as a very frivolous conjec- 
ture, upon a very unimportant subject, which I bring for- 
ward without reflection, and part with without difficulty. 



I mean by the sublime, as I meant by the beautiful, a 
feeling of mind ; though, of course, a very different feel- 
ing. It is a feeling of pleasure, but of exalted tremulous 
pleasure, bordering on the very confines of pain ; and 
driving before it every calm thought, and every regu- 
lated feeling. It is the feeling which men experience 
when they behold marvelous scenes of nature ; or when 
they see great actions performed. Such feelings as come 
on the top of exceeding high mountains ; or the hour 
before a battle ; or when a man of great power, and of 
an unyielding spirit, is pleading before some august tri- 
bunal against the accusations of his enemies. These are 
the hours of sublimity, when all low and little passions 
are swallowed up by an overwhelming feeling ; when 
the mind towers and springs above its common limits, 
breaks out into larger dimensions, and swells into a 
nobler and grander nature. It is necessary here to 
notice the opinions of Dr. Reid and Mr. Alison, upon 
the subject of the sublime, which I think may be very 
fairly expressed by this short quotation from the former 
of these gentlemen : — " When we consider matter as an 
inert, extended, divisible, and movable substance, there 
seems to be nothing in these qualities which we can call 
grand ; and when we ascribe grandeur to any portion 
of matter, however modified, may it not borrow this 
quality from something intellectual, of which it is the 
effect, or sign, or instrument, or to which it bears some 
analogy ; or, perhaps, because it produces in the mind 
an emotion that has some resemblance to that admira- 
tion, which truly grand objects raise ? 

# # * # # # # 


" Upon the whole, I humbly apprehend, that true 
grandeur is such a degree of excellence as is fit to raise 
an enthusiastic admiration ; that this grandeur is found 
originally and properly in qualities of the mind ; that it 
is discerned in objects of sense, only by reflection, as the 
light we perceive in the moon and planets is, truly, the 
light of the sun ; and that those who look for grandeur 
in mere matter, seek the living among the dead. 

" If this be a mistake, it ought at least to be granted, 
that the grandeur which we perceive in qualities of 
mind, ought to have a different name from that which 
belongs properly to the objects of sense, as they are very 
different in their nature, and produce very different 
emotions in the mind of the spectator."* 

Upon the justice of these observations every one must 
determine for themselves. When I look upon a forest, 
I confess I am quite unconscious of any qualities of 
mind, which excite in me the feelings by which I am 
then possessed ; nor can I, upon mature reflection, find 
that any other feelings are excited in me but wonder 
and terror : nor can I admit that the sublimity excited 
by matter, or by qualities of mind, should have different 
names, because I firmly believe that the two feelings do 
very much resemble each other ; and if that be the case, 
their similarity of name indicates their affinity, and in- 
troduces something like classification into such a dark 
and mysterious subject as the feelings of the mind. I 
have said so much in my Lectures on the Beautiful, 
against referring that feeling to moral qualities alone, 
and the arguments would be so precisely the same for 
this feeling of the sublime, that I forbear going over them 
again. " The first cause of this feeling," says Mr. Burke, 
" is obscurity. ' In thoughts from the visions of the 
night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, fear came upon 
me, and trembling ; which made all my bones to shake : 
then, a spirit passed before my eyes; the hair of my flesh 
stood up ! it stood still, but I could not discern the form 
thereof : an image was before mine eyes ! there was 
silence, and I heard a voice ! Shall mortal man be more 

* Reid's Essays on the Powers of the Mind, 


just than God ?' " Now, throughout the whole of this 
description, as Mr. Burke very justly observes, there is 
an obscurity which fills the mind with terror (such 
terror, I mean, as is excited by description;) every thing 
is half obscure ; it takes place in a dream. The appari- 
tion is half seen, — it has no determinate form. There is 
space and verge enough for every horror that the most 
fruitful imagination can suggest ; there are no limits to 
the conception of the dreadful : no man's fancy could 
paint any thing positive, so terrific, as every man's 
fancy, in this instance, is left to paint for itself. 

Obscurity here seems to operate in the production of 
the sublime, as it is a medium of terror ; for whatever 
else be added to it, terror seems in one shape or another, 
or in some degree or another, to be essential to the sub- 
lime. The degree that each individual can bear of 
terror, without destroying the feeling of the sublime, 
must of course depend upon the force of every man's 
blood, and the strength of his nerves. I have heard of 
a clergyman so extremely fond of the sublime, that he 
procured admission into the foremost parallels at the 
siege of Valenciennes, in order to contemplate the firing 
from the batteries of the town the more distinctly : such 
a situation. I should have thought, would have been a 
little too sublime for Longinus himself, and evinces 
certainly a disregard for personal danger, with which 
the generality of the world, in their enjoyment of this 
high feeling, can not keep pace. 

Mere terror, even in that moderated degree of which 
I am speaking, does not produce the sublime by itself ; 
for if an angry man flourishes a loaded pistol near me, 
in all directions, and exhibits a very careless manage- 
ment of that interesting machine, I have fear in a certain 
degree, without a particle of sublimity. If a cow shows 
some slight disposition to run at me as I am crossing a 
field, I am frightened, but my mind experiences nothing 
of the sublime. If I am attended by a bad apothecary 
in an illness, I am excessively frightened, but he never 
appears to me in the light of a sublime apothecary. 
Fear, therefore, commonly enters into the feeling of the 
sublime as an ingredient ; or rather, I should say, is an 


ingredient of the cause of that feeling ; though it can not 
excite it by itself. But some men tell you it is not fear 
which is the ingredient, but awe ; but is not fear an 
ingredient of awe? — for what is awe, but fear and 
admiration mingled together ; both existing, perhaps, in 
a less degree, than they are to be met with in the sub- 
lime ? But if the feeling of awe be not of the family of 
fear, I am quite ignorant both of its genealogy and nature. 

A mixture of wonder and terror almost always excites 
the feeling of the sublime. Extraordinary power gene- 
rally excites the feeling of the sublime by these means, — 
by mixing wonder with terror. A person who has 
never seen any thing of the kind but a little boat, would 
think a sloop of eighty tons a goodly and somewhat of a 
grand object, if all her sails were set, and she were going 
gallantly before the wind ; but a first-rate man-of-war 
would sail over such a sloop, and send her to the bottom, 
without any person on board the man-of-war perceiving 
that they had encountered any obstacle. Such power 
is wonderful and terrible, — therefore, sublime. Every 
body possessed of power is an object either of awe or 
sublimity, from a justice of peace up to the Emperor 
Aurungzebe — an object quite as stupendous as the Alps. 
He had thirty-five millions of revenue, in a country 
where the products of the earth are, at least, six times as 
cheap as in England : his empire extended over twenty- 
five degrees of latitude, and as many of longitude : he 
had put to death above twenty millions of people. 1 
should like to know the man who could have looked at 
Aurungzebe without feeling him to the end of his limbs, 
and in every hair of his head ! Such emperors are more 
sublime than cataracts. I think any man would have 
shivered more at the sight of Aurungzebe, than at the 
sight of the two rivers which meet at the Blue Moun- 
tains, in America, and, bursting through the whole 
breadth of the rocks, roll their victorious and united 
waters to the Eastern Sea. 

Homer represents the horses of Juno as leaping at one 
bound across the horizon : 

" For as a shepherd, from some point on high, 
O'er the wide main extends his boundless eye, — 


Through such a space of air, with thund'ring sound, 
At one long leap, the immortal coursers bound !" 

Power is here the cause of the sublime ; and Longinus 
observes of this thought, that if the steeds of the deity 
were to take a second leap, the world itself would want 
room for it. I must beg leave to mention here, that 
wonder is not always mingled with fear ; and that fear is 
by no means the necessary consequence of wonder. I 
may be living in Portuguese America, and find a diamond 
as big as a hen's egg ; — here is wonder, but nothing like 
fear. Count Borrilowski excites a sufficient degree of 
wonder, but a feeling as distinct from fear as any feeling 
can be. 

Magnitude is a cause of the sublime, as it excites a 
mixture of wonder and terror. The great horse, now 
to be seen for a shilling, is not sublime, because it is so 
exceedingly tame, and even stupid, that it does not excite 
the smallest degree of danger. A bull of the size of this 
animal would be an object of sublimity, because it would 
excite feelings both of wonder and feav. 

Magnitudes may be considered either as relative to 
the species of the thing itself, or relative to all other 
things. Any object of unusual magnitude for its spe- 
cies, accompanied by danger, would have a strong ten- 
dency to excite some feeling of the sublime. The largest 
snake ever seen in this country, might have some chance 
of exciting the feeling of sublimity, though a middling- 
sized one certainly would not. We call this object large, 
because it is large for its own species ; though, going 
through all the chain of magnitudes, from a mountain 
to a grain of dust, we could hardly call such a snake a 
large object. Magnitude in height — as a very lofty 
mountain — would excite the sublime, from mingling 
wonder with terror. In looking down from a lofty place, 
every one is aware of the terror mingled with the won- 
der. In looking up to a lofty place, the terror is more 
faint, but still it may be distinctly recognized. The word 
we commonly use to express our feelings on such occa- 
sions, is awe ; but such awe is most probably nothing 
but a distant conception of the personal danger we 


should experience if we were upon the height at which 
we are looking, if we were to slip from it, and be pre- 
cipitated to the bottom. Silence is sublime to those who 
are unaccustomed to it, after a long residence in London. 
The profound silence of the country is quite affecting 
and impressive : — 

" all the air a solemn stillness holds /" 

The solitude of a Gothic cathedral, or that which 
reigns throughout an extensive ruin — as at Tintern and 
Fountain's Abbey, — are very sublime. That such scenes 
of solitude and silence excite wonder in those little ac- 
customed to them, there can be no doubt ; but that faint 
tinge of danger is also discoverable in them which is so 
common an ingredient of the sublime : they remind us, 
however distantly, of our weak and unprotected state, 
and bring with them a faint and obscure image of death 
and danger. 

" Tis as the general pulse 
Of life stood still, and nature made a pause — 
An awful pause ! prophetic of her end." 

Infinity, perhaps, raises the idea of the sublime, by 
mixing the wonderful with terror: at least, I think there 
is a distinct impression of fear, produced by the notion 
of infinity; and certainly there is one of wonder. Im- 
mensity of any kind excites the notion of power, and the 
distant sense of fear. Look at a little green grass-plat 
before a house ; nothing can be more insignificant : 
magnify it into a field ; you are not struck with it : let 
it be a smooth, uniform, boundless plain, stretching on 
every side further than the eye can reach, and it be- 
comes a sublime object. How vast must be the power 
that has arranged such a mass of matter ! where does it 
lead to ? what ends it ? how dreadful it would be to 
cross it in a storm ! how impossible to procure assist- 
ance ! how remote from every human being ! — these are 
the notions which pass rapidly through the mind, and 
impress it in the awful manner of which we are all con- 
scious on such occasions. 

Wonder, in itself, is a pleasing passion ; fear is not ; 


and as the sublime inclines more to one or the other, it 
assumes different shades of character. Sometimes it 
borders more upon delight, from the very faint tinge of 
fear which is mingled with it ; at others, it approaches 
much nearer to mere terror. There is in this descrip- 
tion of the sublime, by Mr. Brydonne, as much delight 
as is well compatible with it : — 

" After contemplating these objects for some time, we 
set off, and soon after arrived at the foot of the great 
crater of the mountain. This is of an exact conical 
figure, and rises equally on all sides. It is composed 
solely of ashes and other burnt materials, discharged from 
the mouth of the volcano, which is in its center. This 
conical mountain is of a very great size ; its circumfer- 
ence can not be less than ten miles. Here we took a 
second rest, as the greatest part of our fatigue remained. 
We found this mountain excessively steep ; and although 
it had appeared black, yet it was likewise covered with 
snow, but the surface (luckily for us) was spread over 
with a pretty thick layer of ashes, thrown out from the 
crater. Had it not been for this, we never should have 
been able to get to the top, as the snow was every- 
where frozen hard and solid, from the piercing cold of 
the air. 

" In about an hour's climbing, w T e arrived at a place 
where there w T as no snow, and where a warm and 
comfortable vapor issued from the mountain ; which 
induced us to make another halt. From this spot it 
was only about 300 yards to the highest summit of the 
mountain, where we arrived in full time to see the most 
wonderful and most sublime sight in nature. 

" But here description must ever fall short ; for no 
imagination has dared to form an idea of so glorious and 
so magnificent a scene. Neither is there on the surface 
of this globe, any one point that unites so many awful 
and sublime objects. The immense elevation from the 
surface of the earth, drawn as it were to a single point, 
without any neighboring mountain for the senses and 
the imagination to rest upon, and recover from their as- 
tonishment in their way down to the world ; this point 
or pinnacle, raised on the brink of a. bottomless gulf, 


as old as the world, often discharging rivers of fire, and 
throwing out burning rocks, with a noise that shakes 
the whole island : add to this, the unbounded extent of 
the prospect, comprehending the greatest diversity and 
the most beautiful scenery in nature ; with the rising 
sun, advancing in the east, to illuminate the wondrous 

" The whole atmosphere by degrees kindled up, and 
showed dimly and faintly the boundless prospect around. 
Both sea and land looked dark and confused, as if only 
emerging from their original chaos, and light and dark- 
ness seemed still undivided ; till the morning by degrees 
advancing, completed the separation. The stars are ex- 
tinguished, and the shades disappear. The forests, 
which but now seemed black and bottomless gulfs, 
from whence no ray was reflected to show their form or 
color, appear a new creation rising to the sight ; catch- 
ing life and beauty from every increasing beam. The 
scene still enlarges, and the horizon seems to widen and 
expand itself on all sides ; till the sun, like the great 
Creator, appears in the east, and with its plastic ray 
completes the mighty scene ! All appears enchant- 
ment ; and it is with difficulty we can believe we are 
still on earth. The senses, unaccustomed to the sub- 
limity of such a scene, are bewildered and confounded ; 
and it is not till after some time, that they are capable 
of separating and judging of the objects that compose it. 
The body of the sun is seen rising from the ocean, im- 
mense tracts both of sea and land intervening; the 
islands of Lipari, Panari, Alicudi, Stromboli, and Vol- 
cano, with their smoking summits, appear under your 
feet ; and you look clown on the whole of Sicily as on a 
map ; and can trace every river through all its windings, 
from its source to its mouth. The view is absolutely 
boundless on every side ; nor is there any one ob- 
ject, within the circle of vision, to interrupt it ; so that 
the sight is everywhere lost in the immensity : and I am 
persuaded it is only from the imperfection of our organs, 
that the coasts of Africa, and of Greece, are not dis- 
covered, as they are certainly above the horizon."* 

* BryHnnne, vol. i. p. 200. 


This description, by Sir William Hamilton, of the 
eruption of Vesuvius, is of a totally opposite character ; 
and the sublimity of it is almost entirely destroyed by 
the horrors it contains : — 

"In an instant," he says, "a fountain of liquid fire 
began to rise, and, gradually increasing, rose to the 
amazing height of 10,000 feet, and upward: the black- 
est smoke accompanied the red-hot, transparent, and 
liquid lava, interrupting its splendid brightness here and 
there, by patches of the darkest hue. Within these 
clouds of smoke, at the very moment they broke out, 
pale electrical fire was seen playing about in oblique 
lines. The wind, though gentle, was sufficient to carry 
these blasts of smoke out of the column of fire, and a 
collection of them by degrees formed a black and ex- 
tensive curtain behind it, while other parts of the sky 
were clear, and the stars entirely bright. All this time, 
the miserable inhabitants of Ottajano were involved in 
the utmost distress and danger, by the showers of stones 
which fell upon them. Many of the inhabitants flew to 
the churches, and others were preparing to quit the town, 
when a sudden and violent report was heard, and pres- 
ently fell a vast shower of stones and large pieces of 
scoriae, some of which were of the diameter of seven or 
eight feet, and must have weighed, before they fell, 
above one hundred pounds. In an instant, the town, 
and country about it, was on fire in many places. To 
add to the horror of the scene, incessant volcanic light- 
ning was rushing about the black cloud that surrounded 
them, and the sulphureous smell would scarcely allow 
them to draw their breath. In this dreadful situation 
they remained about twenty-five minutes, when the vol- 
canic storm ceased at once ; and Vesuvius remained 
sullen and silent." 

The sublimity of the first of these descriptions ap- 
proaches the confines of the beautiful ; — in the last, of 
the horrible. We must take great care, in the selection 
of sublime objects, not to choose those which are too 
horrible ; or which remind us too intimately of danger ; 
because, as the sublime always implies some mixture of 
pleasure, strong compassion and violent horror entirely 


destroy it. "All sounds/' says Mr. Alison, "in general 
are sublime, which are associated with the idea of dan- 
ger ; — the howling of a storm, the murmuring of an 
earthquake, the report of artillery. All sounds," he adds, 
" in the same manner, are sublime, which are associated 
with the idea of deep melancholy, — as the tolling of the 
passing bell." Now, I confess I do not call either the 
murmuring of an earthquake, or the howling of a storm, 
or the report of artillery, or the tolling of a passing bell, 
sublime sounds, but merely horrible sounds ; they are so 
devoid of every mixture of pleasure, that they excite 
nothing but fear or compassion, according as we our- 
selves, or others, are most nearly affected by them ; they 
are sublime in poetry or in description, but in real nature 
they are dreadful, and nothing else. In description, al- 
most any thing, however dreadful, may be made sublime 
by the prodigious mitigation of the real horror, which is 
always remarkable when the passions are excited at 
second-hand. As I have before traced a connection 
between that feeling of the beautiful, excited by the in- 
tervention of matter, and that which presents itself to 
the mind from the contemplation of moral qualities, it is 
equally easy, in this stronger and more marked feeling 
of the sublime, to trace a similar resemblance. All those 
qualities of mind which excite wonder, and any portion 
of fear, — even that very subdued species of it we call 
respect, — raise an elevated sentiment in the mind, pre- 
cisely similar to the sublime of natural objects. Im- 
mense courage, whether active or passive, is easily sub- 
lime. " In the midst of this dreadful fire and carnage," 
says Voltaire, speaking of the battle of Fontenoy, " the 
English officers were seen, with the same coolness they 
would have displayed on the parade, leveling the mus- 
kets of the soldiers with their canes, in order that they 
might fire with due precision." The death of General 
Wolfe is quite sublime, from the love of life being so en- 
tirely swallowed up in the love of glory. " Toward the 
end of the battle, he received a new wound in the breast; 
he was immediately conveyed behind the rear rank, and 
laid upon the ground. Soon after, a shout was heard, 
and one of the officers who stood bv him exclaimed, 



• How they run V The dying hero asked, with some 
emotion, ' Who run ?' ' The enemy/ replied the officer, 
' they give w T ay everywhere.' ' Now, God be praised,' 
says Wolfe, ' I shall die happy !' He then turned on his 
side, closed his eyes, and expired." 

Firmness and constancy of purpose, that withstands 
all solicitation, and, in spite of all dangers, goes on 
straightly to its object, is very often sublime. The res- 
olution of St. Paul, in going up to Jerusalem, where he 
has the firmest conviction that he shall undergo every 
species of persecution, quite comes within this descrip- 
tion of feeling. "What mean ye to weep and to break 
my heart ? I am ready, not to be bound only, but to 
die, at Jerusalem, for the name of Jesus. I know that 
ye all, before whom I have preached the kingdom of 
God, shall see my face no more ! Wherefore I take you 
to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all 
men. I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or ap- 
parel. Ye yourselves know, that these hands have 
ministered unto my necessities, and unto them which 
were with me ; and now it is witnessed in every city 
through which I pass, that bonds and afflictions await 
me at Jerusalem ; but not one of these things move me, 
neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might 
finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I 
have received, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." 

There is something exceedingly majestic in the steadi- 
ness with which the Apostle points out the single object 
of his life, and the unquenchable courage with which he 
walks toward it. " I know 1 shall die, but I have a 
greater object than life, — the zeal of a high duty. 
Situation allows some men to think of safety ; I not only 
must not consult it, but I must go where I know it will 
be most exposed. I must hold out my hands for chains, 
and my body for stripes, and my soul for misery. I am 
ready to do it all!" These are the feelings by which 
alone bold truths have been told to the world ; by which 
the bondage of falsehood has been broken, and the chains 
of slavery snapped asunder ! It is in vain to talk of men 
numerically ; if the passions of a man are exalted to a 


feebleness and fluctuation of his nature are shamed 
away, you must not pretend to calculate upon his efforts. 
Under the influence of sublime feelings, sometimes liberty, 
sometimes religious men, have sprung up from the dust, 
to shiver the oldest dominions ; to toss to the ground the 
highest despots ; to astonish ages to come with the im- 
mensity, and power, and grandeur of human feelings. 
In all desperate situations, these are the feelings which 
must rescue us : when prudence is mute, when reason is 
baffled, when all the ordinary resources of discretion are 
exhausted and dried up, — there is no safety but in heroic 
passions, no hope but in sublime men. There is no other 
hope for Europe at this moment, but that high and om- 
nipotent vengeance, which demands years of cruelty and 
oppression, in order that it may be lighted up in the 
hearts of a whole people ; but which, when it does break 
out into action, is so rapid and so terrible, that it resem- 
bles more the judgments of God than the deeds of men. 
Men are very apt to be sublime when they speak of 
themselves, and give vent to those great passions which 
the important events of life engender. The speech 
which Logan, the Indian chief, made to Lord Dunmore, 
in the year 1775, is full of sublimity. Though he was a 
great friend to the English, his wife and all his children 
were murdered by them : this unworthy return excited 
his vengeance ; he took up the hatchet, and signalized 
himself against the whites. In a decisive battle, how- 
ever, which was fought upon the great Kanhaway, the 
Indians were defeated, and sued for peace ; and this was 
the speech made by Logan, which is so fine that its 
authenticity has been questioned, but it is now establish- 
ed beyond a doubt, by the testimony of Mr. Jefferson. 
" I appeal to any white man to say, if ever he entered 
Logan's cabin hungry, and he gave him not meat ? if 
ever he came cold, and naked, and he clothed him not ? 
During the course of the long last bloody war, Logan 
remained idle in his cabin, an advocate for peace. Such 
was my love for the whites, that my countrymen pointed 
as I passed, and said, ' Logan is the friend of white men.' 
I had even thought to have lived with you, but for the 
injuries of one man. Colonel Cressop, the last spring, in 


cold blood, and unprovoked, murdered all the relations 
of Logan ; not sparing even my women and children : 
there runs not a drop of my blood in the veins of any 
living creature ! This called on me for revenge : I have 
sought it. I have killed many ! I have fully glutted 
my vengeance. For my country, I rejoice at the beams 
of peace ; but do not harbor a thought that mine is the 
joy of fear : Logan never felt fear : he will not turn on 
his heel to save his life. Who is there to mourn for 
Logan ? not one !" 

I am going to say rather an odd thing, but I can not 
help thinking that the severe and rigid economy of a 
man in distress, has something in it very sublime, espe- 
cially if it be endured for any length of time serenely 
and in silence. I remember a very striking instance of 
it in a young man, since dead ; he was the son of a coun- 
try curate, who had got him a berth on board a man-of- 
war, as midshipman. The poor curate made a great ef- 
fort for his son ; fitted him out well with clothes, and gave 
him £50 in money. The first week, the poor boy lost 
his chest, clothes, money, and every thing he had in the 
world. The ship sailed for a foreign station ; and his 
loss was without remedy. He immediately quitted his 
mess, ceased to associate with the other midshipmen, 
who were the sons of gentlemen ; and for five years, 
without mentioning it to his parents — who he knew 
could not assist him, — or without borrowing a farthing 
from any human being, without a single murmur or com- 
plaint, did that poor lad endure the most abject and de- 
grading poverty, at a period of life when the feelings are 
most alive to ridicule, and the appetites most prone to 
indulgence. Now, I confess I am a mighty advocate for 
the sublimity of such long and patient endurance. If 
you can make the world stare and look on, there, you 
have vanity, or compassion, to support you ; but to bury 
all your wretchedness in your own mind, — to resolve 
that you will have no man's pity, w r hile you have one 
effort left to procure his respect, — to harbor no mean 
thought in the midst of abject poverty, but, at the very 
time you are surrounded by circumstances of humility 
and depression, to found a spirit of modest independ- 


ence upon the consciousness of having always acted 
well ; — this is a sublime, which, though it is found in the 
shade and retirement of life, ought to be held up to the 
praises of men, and to be looked upon as a noble model 
for imitation. 

The confidence which very great men have in them- 
selves, partakes of this feeling. There is something ex- 
tremely grand and imposing in their firm reliance upon 
their own genius ; and what in common men would be 
the height of presumption, is in them, not only tolerated, 
but vehemently and justly admired. Such is the answer 
of Alexander to Parmenio ; — Csesar to the Pilot ; — Ma- 
rius to the man who saw him sitting on the ruins of 
Carthage. There is a very sublime piece of insolence, 
which Homer has put into the mouth of Achilles. He 
has seized upon Lycaon, and is going to put him to 
death. The young man prays to him, in the most hum- 
ble and supplicating manner, to spare his life. " Wretch!" 
says Achilles, " do you fear to die ? do you complain of 
death ? Look at me ! how beautiful, how vast, how 
brave am I ! — even / must perish ! A hero was my 
father, a goddess produced me, and yet the hour will 
come, be it morning, or evening, or noon, when even I 
must fall by the arrow or the spear !" Lucullus, when 
he marched up to Tigranocerta, had an army of 300,000 
men to attack. What was the conduct of Lucullus ? 
He did not go about to his officers and say, " Do you 
think I had better attack them ? or what do you think 
about it ? I have really a great mind to do so." His 
army and his officers were disconcerted with their num- 
bers. Lucullus, the very moment he glanced at their 
position, exclaimed, " We have them!" It happened 
to be on one of those days which the Romans had 
marked out in their calendar as unfortunate, because it 
had formerly been memorable by defeats. They re- 
quested him to consider this well, and not to hazard a 
battle on such a day. "/will put it among the fortunate 
days," said he, and immediately ordered them to march. 
A hundred thousand barbarians fell in the battle ; with 
the loss of five Romans killed, and a hundred wounded. 

The calm resignation to inevitable fate, equally re- 


moved from insolence and fear, and which is so peculiar 
to great minds, is to be classed among the sublimer feel- 
ings of our nature. In this manner Socrates drank the 
poison ; the three hundred perished at the Straits of 
Greece ; so died the Chancellor More on the scaffold, 
and the great Lord Falkland in the field ; and in the 
same manner, the memorable Lord Strafford pleaded 
before his enemies : "And now, my lords/' he says, "I 
thank God I have been (by his blessing) sufficiently in- 
structed in the extreme vanity of all temporary enjoy- 
ments, compared to the importance of our eternal dura- 
tion; and so, my lords, even so, with all humility, and 
all tranquillity of mind, I submit clearly and freely to 
your judgments ; and whether that righteous doom shall 
be to life or death, I shall repose myself, full of gratitude 
and confidence, in the arms of the great Author of my 

" Certainly," says Whitelock (with his usual candor,) 
" never any man acted such a part on such a theater, 
with more wisdom, constancy, and eloquence ; with 
greater reason, judgment, and temper ; and with a bet- 
ter grace in all his words and actions, — than did this 
great and excellent person : and he moved the hearts 
of all his auditors (some few excepted) to pity and re- 

All these men, in their different walks of life, as warriors, 
or as statesmen, seemed, at the approach of their destiny, to 
have enveloped themselves in their own greatness ; and 
to have been lifted up above us, by a kind of serenity to 
which we should feel it impossible, in similar situations, 
to attain. 

I have been thus diffuse upon the subject of the sub- 
lime in morals, because it is of all things the most in- 
spiring and useful, to contemplate the best models of our 
own species, and to know w r hat those limits are, to which 
our nature really does extend ; and one of the great ad- 
vantages of that classical education in which we are 
trained in this country, is, that it sets before us so many 
examples of sublimity in action, and of sublimity in 
thought. It is impossible for us, in the first and most 
ardent years of life, to read the great actions of the two 


greatest nations in the world, so beautifully related, with- 
out catching, ourselves, some taste for greatness, and a 
love for that glory which is gained by doing greater and 
better things than other men. And though the state of 
order and discipline into which the world is brought, 
does not enable a man frequently to do such things, as 
every day produced in the fierce and eventful democ- 
raties of Greece and Rome, yet, to love that which is 
great, is the best security for hating that which is little ; 
the best cure for envy ; the safest antidote for revenge ; 
the surest pledge for the abhorrence of malice ; the 
noblest incitement to love truth, and manly independ- 
ence, and honorable labor, — -to glory in spotless inno- 
cence, and build up the system of life upon the rock of 

It is the greatest and first use of history, to show us the 
sublime in morals, and to tell us what great men have 
done in perilous seasons. Such beings, and such actions, 
dignify our nature, and breathe into us a virtuous pride 
which is the parent of every good. Wherever you 
meet with them in the page of history, read them, mark 
them, and learn from them how to live, and how to die ! 
for the object of common men, is only to live. The 
object of such men as I have spoken of, was to live 
grandly, and in favor with their own difficult spirits : to 
live, if in war, gloriously ; if in peace, usefully, justly, and 
freely ! ! 



I confess I treat on this subject with some degree of 
apprehension and reluctance ; because, I should be very 
sorry to do injustice to the poor brutes, who have no 
professors to revenge their cause by lecturing on our 
faculties : and at the same time I know there is a very 
strong anthropical party, who view all eulogiums on the 
brute creation with a very considerable degree of sus- 
picion ; and look upon every compliment which is paid 
to the ape, as high treason to the dignity of man. 

There may, perhaps, be more of rashness and ill-fated 
security in my opinion, than of magnanimity or libe- 
rality ; but I confess I feel myself so much at my ease 
about the superiority of mankind, — I have such a marked 
and decided contempt for the understanding of every 
baboon I have yet seen, — I feel so sure that the blue ape 
without a tail will never rival us in poetry, painting, and 
music, — that I see no reason whatever, why justice may 
not be done to the few fragments of soul, and tatters of 
understanding, which they may really possess. I have 
sometimes, perhaps, felt a little uneasy at Exeter 'Change, 
from contrasting the monkeys with the 'prentice-boys 
who are teasing them ; but a few pages of Locke, or a 
few lines of Milton, have always restored me to tran- 
quillity, and convinced me that the superiority of man 
had nothing to fear. 

Philosophers have been much puzzled about the essen- 
tial characteristics of brutes, by which they may be 
distinguished from men. Some define a brute to be an 
animal that never laughs, or an animal incapable of 


laughter : some say they are mute animals. The Peri- 
patetics "allowed them a sensitive power, but denied 
them a rational one. The Platonists allowed them rea- 
son and understanding; though in a degree less pure, 
and less refined, than that of men. Lactantius allows 
them every thing which men have, except a sense of 
religion : and some skeptics have gone so far as to say 
they have this also. Descartes maintained that brutes 
are mere inanimate machines, absolutely destitute, not 
only of all reason, but of all thought and reflection ; and 
that all their actions are only consequences of the 
exquisite mechanism of their bodies. This system, how- 
ever, is much older than Descartes ; it was borrowed by 
him from Gomez Pereira, a Spanish physician, who 
employed thirty years in composing a treatise on this 
subject, which he very affectionately called by the name 
of his father and mother — " Antoniana Margarita." 
Systems and theories, however, differ very materially in 
their importance, according to the parent who ushers 
them into the world, and the obscurity or notoriety of 
the name to which they happen to be connected. Poor 
Gomez was so far from having opponents, that he had 
not even readers : his theory, in the hands of Descartes, 
excited a controversy which reached from one end of 
Europe to the other : many, who maintained the oppo- 
site hypothesis to Descartes, contended that brutes are 
endowed with a soul, essentially inferior to that of man ; 
and to this soul some have impiously allowed immor- 
tality. But the most curious of all opinions, respecting 
the understanding of beasts, is that advanced by Pere 
Bougeant, a Jesuit, in a work entitled " Philosophical 
Amusement on the Language of Beasts." In this book 
he contends, that each animal is inhabited by a separate 
and distinct devil ; that not only this was the case with 
respect to cats, which have long been known to be very 
favorite residences of familiar spirits, but that a peculiar 
devil swam with every turbot, grazed with every ox, 
soared with every lark, dived with every duck, and was 
roasted with every chicken. 

The most common notion now prevalent, with respect 
to animals, is, that they are guided by instinct ; that the 


discriminating circumstance between the minds of ani- 
mals and of men is, that the former do what 'they do 
from instinct, the latter from reason. Now, the question 
is, is there any meaning to the word instinct ? what is 
that meaning ? and what is the distinction between in- 
stinct and reason ? If I desire to do a certain thing, 
adopt certain means to effect it, and have a clear and 
precise notion that those means are directly subservient 
to that end, — there I act from reason ; but, if I adopt 
means subservient to the end, and am uniformly found 
to do so, and am not in the least degree conscious that 
these means are subservient to the end, — there I certainly 
do act from some principle very different from reason ; 
and to which principle, it is as convenient to give the 
name of instinct, as any other name. If I build a house 
for my family, and lay it out into different apartments, 
separating it horizontally with floors, and give the 
obvious principles on which I have done so, — here is 
plainly an invention of meaning, and an application of 
previous experience, which any body would call by the 
name of reason ; but if I am detected making folding- 
doors to the drawing-room, putting up snug shelves in 
the butler's pantry, and making the whole house as 
convenient as possible, and it is quite plain at the same 
time that I have no possible motive to alledge why I have 
done these things, that I am quite ignorant folding doors 
are pleasant at routs, and shelves eminently useful to 
butlers, for the more orderly and decorous arrangement 
of glass ware, — there, it is very plain I am not constituted 
as other men are ; that I am not applying previous 
experience to new cases, — not arguing that what has 
happened before, will happen again ; but that I am 
generically different from all others of my species, and 
that my mind is not the mind of man. Bees, it is well 
known, construct their combs with small cells on both 
sides, fit for holding their store of honey, and for receiv- 
ing their young. There are only three possible figures 
of the cells, which can make them all equal and similar, 
without any useless interstices : these are, the equilateral 
triangle, the square, and the regular hexagon. It is 
well known to mathematicians, that there is not a fourth 


way possible, in which a plane may be cut into little 
spaces, that shall be equal, similar, and regular, without 
leaving any interstices. Of the three, the hexagon is 
the most proper both for conveniency and strength ; and 
accordingly, bees — as if they were acquainted with these 
things — make all their cells regular hexagons. As the 
combs have cells on both sides, the cells may either be 
exactly opposite, having partition against partition, — or 
the bottom of a cell may rest upon the partitions, 
between the cells, on the other side ; which will serve as 
a buttress to strengthen it. The last way is the best for 
strength; accordingly, the bottom of each cell rests 
against the point where three partitions meet on the 
other side, which gives it all the strength possible. The 
bottom of a cell may either be one plane perpendicular 
to the side partitions, or it may be composed of several 
planes meeting in a solid angle in the middle point. It 
is only in one of these two ways, that all the cells can be 
similar without losing room; and, for ihe same intention, 
the planes of which the bottom is composed — if there be 
more than one — must be exactly three in number, and 
neither more nor less. It has been demonstrated also, 
that by making the bottom to consist of three planes 
meeting in a point there is a saving of materials and 
labor, — by no means inconsiderable. The bees, as if 
acquainted with the principles of solid geometry, follow 
them most accurately : the bottom of each cell being 
composed of three planes, which make obtuse angles 
with the side partitions, and with one another, and meet 
in a point in the middle of the bottom ; the three angles 
of this bottom, being supported by three partitions on the 
other side of the comb, and the point of it by the common 
intersection of those three partitions. 

One instance more of the mathematical skill displayed 
in the structure of a honeycomb deserves to be men- 
tioned. It is a curious mathematical problem, at what 
precise angle the three planes which compose the bottom 
of a cell ought to meet, in order to make the greatest 
possible saving, or the least expense of materials and 
labor. This is one of those problems belonging to the 
higher parts of mathematics, which are called problems 


of maxima and minima. It has been resolved by some 
mathematicians, particularly by Mr. Maclaurin, by a 
fluxionary calculation, which is to be found in the ninth 
volume of the " Transactions of the Royal Society of 
London." He has determined precisely the angle re- 
quired ; and he found by the most exact mensuration the 
subject could admit, that it is the very angle in which 
the three planes in the bottom of the cell of a honey- 
comb do actually meet. How is all this to be explained? 
Imitation it certainly is not ; for, after every old bee has 
been killed, you may take the honeycomb and hatch a 
new swarm of bees, that can not possibly have had any 
communication with, or instruction from, the parents. 
The young of every animal — though they have never 
seen the dam, — will do exactly as all their species have 
done before them. A brood of young ducks, hatched 
under a hen, take to the water in spite of the remon- 
strances and terrors of their spurious parent. All the 
great habitudes of every species of animals, have repeat- 
edly been proved to be independent of imitation. I re- 
member Mr. Stewart, in his " Lectures," quotes an 
experiment of this kind, made by Sir James Hall of 
Edinburgh, who has distinguished himself so much by 
his very important experiments upon the chemistry of 
mineralogy. Sir James hatched some chickens in an 
oven : within a few minutes after the shell was broken, 
a spider was turned loose before this very youthful 
brood; — the destroyer of flies had hardly proceeded a 
few inches before he was descried by one of these oven- 
born chickens, and, at one peck of his bill, immediately 
devoured. This certainly was not imitation. A female 
goat, very near delivery, died ; Galen cut out the young 
kid, and placed before it a bundle of hay, a bunch of 
fruit, and a pan of milk ; the young kid smelt to them 
all very attentively, and then began to lap the milk. 
This was not imitation. And what is commonly and 
rightly called instinct, can not be explained away, under 
the notion of its being imitation. Nor can it be mere 
accident ; because, though it is not impossible that one 
swarm of bees might adopt these figures and measure- 
ments, without knowing their importance, it is not to be 


believed that mere accident can uniformly produce such 
extraordinary effects. The warmest admirers of honey, 
and the greatest friends to bees, will never, I presume, 
contend that the young swarm, who begin making 
honey three or four months after they are born, and im- 
mediately construct these mathematical cells, should, 
have gained their geometrical knowledge as we gain 
ours, and in three months' time outstrip Mr. Maclaurin 
in mathematics as much as they did in making honey. 
It would take a senior wrangler at Cambridge ten hours 
a day, for three years together, to know enough mathe- 
matics for the calculation of these problems, with which 
not only every queen bee, but every under-graduate 
grub, is acquainted the moment it is born. A few more 
instances of a principle of action among animals, which 
can not be reason, — and I have done upon this part of 
the subject. If you shake caterpillars off a tree in every 
direction, they instantly turn round and climb up, though 
they had never formerly been on the surface of the 
ground. This is a very striking instance of instinct. 
The caterpillar finds its food, and is nourished, upon the 
tree, and not upon the ground ; but surely the caterpillar 
can never tell that such an exertion is necessary to its 
salvation ; and therefore, it acts not from rational motives, 
but from blind impulse. Ants and beavers lay up maga- 
zines. Where do they get their knowledge that it will 
not be so easy to collect food in rainy weather as it is in 
the summer ? Men and women know these things, be- 
cause their grandpapas and grandmammas have told them 
so ; ants, hatched from the egg artificially, or birds hatch- 
ed in this manner, have all this knowledge by intuition, 
without the smallest communication with any of their 
relations. Now, observe what the solitary wasp does ; 
she digs several holes in the sand, in each of which she 
deposits an egg, though she certainly knows not that 
an animal is deposited in that egg, — and still less that 
this animal must be nourished with other animals. She 
collects a few green flies, rolls them up neatly in sepa- 
rate parcels (like Bologna sausages), and stuffs one 
parcel into each hole where an egg is deposited. When 
the wasp-worm is hatched, it finds a store of provisions 


ready made ; and what is most curious, the quantity 
allotted to each is exactly sufficient to support it, till it 
attains the period of wasphood, and can provide for 
itself. This instinct of the parent wasp is the more re- 
markable, as it does not feed upon flesh itself. Here 
the little creature has never seen its parent ; for, by the 
time it is born, the parent is always eaten by sparrows : 
and yet, without the slightest education, or previous ex- 
perience, it does every thing that the parent did before 
it. Now the objectors to the doctrine of instinct may 
say what they please, but young tailors have no intuitive 
mode of making pantaloons; — a new-born mercer can 
not measure diaper ; — Nature teaches a cook's daughter 
nothing about sippets. All these things require with 
us seven years' apprenticeship; but insects are like 
Moliere's persons of quality, — they know every thing 
(as Moliere says), without having learned any thing. 
" Les gens de qualite savent tout, sans avoir rien appris." 
The most strenuous objector to these histories of the 
singular and untaught instincts of animals, is the Comte 
de Buffon ; and he has been particularly severe upon 
bees, whose reputation for architecture and civil economy 
he has attempted entirely to overthrow. Of Maclaurin's 
discovery of the angle, he takes no notice, and returns 
no answer to it ; neither does he condescend to notice 
the particular manner in which the comb is placed back 
to back. His observations upon the hexagonal form of 
the cell, appears to me, I confess, for so great a man, 
very singular. " The hexagonal form of the cells of the 
bee, which have been the subject of so much admiration, 
furnish an additional proof of the stupidity of these in- 
sects. This figure, though extremely regular, is nothing 
but a mechanical result, which is often exhibited in the 
rudest productions of nature. Crystals, and several 
other stones, as well as particular salts, constantly assume 
this figure. The small scales in the skin of the roussete, 
or great Ternate bat, are hexagonal, because each scale 
when growing obstructs the progress of its neighbor, and 
tends to occupy as much space as possible. We likewise 
find these hexagons in the second stomachs of some 
ruminating animals ; in certain seeds, capsules, and 


flowers. If we fill a vessel with cylindrical grain, and, 
after filling up the interstices with water, shut it close 
up, and boil the water, all these cylinders will become 
hexagonal columns. The reason is obvious, and purely 
mechanical. Each cylindrical grain tends, by its swell- 
ing, to occupy as much space as possible in the limited 
dimensions of the hive: and therefore, as the bodies of 
the bees are cylindrical, they must necessarily make 
their cells hexagonal, from the reciprocal obstruction 
they give to each other." 

In the case of the boiled grain, the vessel is close ; but 
the comb, I fancy, in common bee-hives, by no means 
extends itself through the whole dimensions of the straw 
hut ; therefore, there is no pressure on the outside : 
neither do I see how there is any pressure from within, 
because the cell is made before the young bee is put in 
it, and the very first plan and groundwork of each cell 
is the hexagon, long before the pressure of body in the 
old bee can effect it. Besides, it really seems quite 
ludicrous to suppose, that such extraordinary regularity 
can be produced by the accidental pushing and scram- 
bling of ten thousand insects, working one at one moment 
at this cell, then flying off to a cowslip, then going to 
another cell, then appointed to digest wax for the public 
good. Make the slightest inequality in the pushing, let 
one bee neglect to scramble for a single instant, or let 
one be scraping away while the other is adding, and the 
whole regularity is immediately destroyed, without the 
possibility of restoring it. And if they did push and 
scramble with this wonderful meter and rhythm, instead 
of destroying the wonder of the insect, it would be 
increasing it. If there be any necessary connection 
between the hexagon and this origin of its formation, 
why do not wasps and ants deposit their nests in hex- 
agons as perfect ? or why does not the insect that works 
the coral ? The real fact seems to be, that Nature has 
originally determined, with scrupulous precision, how 
every animal shall breed and build ; and has confined 
them to a particular shape, as much as to a particular 
position. The wasp takes one form, the bee another, 
the chaffinch another, the robin-redbreast another. Na- 


ture has chosen that some animals should be more 
accurate and fine in their habits ; others, more careless, 
lax, and inattentive. Upon some, she seems to have 
bestowed vast attention : and to have sketched out 
others in a moment, and turned them adrift. The house- 
fly skims about, perches upon a window or a nose, break- 
fasts and sups with you, lays his eggs upon your white 
cotton stockings, runs into the first hole in the wall when 
it is cold, and perishes with as much unconcern as he 
lives. The bees (as is commonly said of them, and as 
is strictly true) do live together in a city, with a com- 
mon object. It has pleased their Maker, that their food 
should be prepared with considerable labor and art ; and 
their houses constructed with the greatest attention to 
durability and convenience. What is there in all this, 
that should make Buffon so angry or skeptical ? Can 
not He who made man, make a miracle one thousand 
times less miraculous than man ? If He have implanted 
in our nature one or two stimuli which are sufficient, in 
the progress of life, gradually to unfold the soul that lies 
hidden within us, why may He not have given to another 
class of animals a great step at first, if He resolved that 
that should be the only progress they ever were to make 
in their momentary existence ? But there is no use in 
putting questions why Providence may not have done 
this, or done that. Providence has done it! There 
are the bees, and there the comb ; — there are the rafters, 
and there is the floor, and there is Colin Maclaurin, with 
his angle ! and get rid of it how you can ; and if you 
are determined to get rid of it, you had better account 
for the formation of a hive in some more sensible man- 
ner, than the pushing and scrambling of Buffon. When 
I call that principle upon which the bees or any other 
animals proceed to their labors, the principle of instinct, 
I only mean to say it is not a principle of reason. How- 
ever the knowledge is gained, it is not gained as our 
knowledge is gained. It is not gained by experience, or 
imitation, for I have cited cases of birds and bees that 
have never seen nest, or cell, — who have made one and 
the other, as if they were perfectly acquainted with them. 
It can not be invention, or the adaptation of means to 


ends ; because, as the animal works before he knows 
what event is going to happen, he can not know what 
the end is, to which he is accommodating the means : 
and if he be actuated by any other principle than these, 
the generation of ideas in animals is (contrary to the 
doctrine of Condillac) very different from the generation 
of ideas in men. 

All the wonderful instincts of animals, which, in my 
humble opinion, are proved beyond a doubt, and the 
belief in which has not decreased with the increase of 
science and investigation, — all these instincts are given 
them only for the combination or preservation of their 
species. If they had not these instincts, they would be 
swept off the earth in an instant. This bee, that under- 
stands architecture so well, is as stupid as a pebble- 
stone, out of his own particular business of making 
honey ; and, with all his talents, he only exists that boys 
may eat his labors, and poets sing about them. Ut pueris 
placeas et declamatio fias . A peasant girl of ten years 
old, puts the whole republic to death with a little smoke ; 
their palaces are turned into candles, and every clergy- 
man's wife makes mead-wine of the honey ; and there is 
an end of the glory and wisdom of the bees ! Whereas, 
man has talents that have no sort of reference to his 
existence ; and without which, his species might remain 
upon earth in the same safety as if they had them not. 
The bee works at that particular angle which saves 
most time and labor ; and the boasted edifice he is con- 
structing is only for his egg : but Somerset House, and 
Blenheim, and the Louvre, have nothing to do with 
breeding. Epic poems, and Apollo Belvideres, and 
Venus de Medicis, have nothing to do with living and 
eating. We might have discovered pig-nuts without 
the Royal Society, and gathered acorns without reason- 
ing about curves of the ninth order. The immense 
superfluity of talent given to man, which has no bearing 
upon animal life, which has nothing to do with the mere 
preservation of existence, is one very distinguishing cir- 
cumstance in this comparison. There is no other animal 
but man to whom mind appears to be given for any 
other purpose than the preservation of body. 


If I am right in explaining the meaning of instinct, as 
distinguished from reason, and right in saying that ani- 
mals are guided by it, a question very naturally arises, 
how far men are guided by it themselves. It is a ques- 
tion of great difficulty and subtilty, which it would be 
very tedious to investigate with the attention its intricacy 
would require. When Locke so successfully attacked 
the doctrine of innate ideas, and innate principles of 
speculative truth, he was thought by many to have over- 
turned all innate principles whatever ; to have divested 
the human mind of every passion, affection, and instinct, 
and to have left in it nothing but the powers of memory, 
sensation, and intellect. Hence arose many philosophers 
at home and abroad, who maintained, upon the principles 
of Locke, that in the human mind there are no instincts, 
but that every thing which had usually been called by 
that name is resolvable into association and habit. This 
doctrine was attacked by Lord Shaftesbury, who intro- 
duced into the theory of mind, as faculties derived from 
nature, a sense of beauty, a sense of honor, and a sense 
of ridicule ; and these he considered as the test of a spec- 
ulative truth and moral rectitude. His lordship's prin- 
ciples were in part adopted by Professor Hutchinson, of 
Glasgow, who published a system of moral philosophy, 
founded upon a sense of instinct, to which he gave the 
name of the moral sense ; and the undoubted merit of his 
book procured him many followers. It being now sup- 
posed that the human mind was endowed with instinct- 
ive principles of action, a sect of very lazy philosophers 
arose, who found it convenient to refer every phenom- 
enon to a separate instinct. Immediately we had the 
fighting instinct, the loving instinct, the educating in- 
stinct, the hoarding instinct, the cheating instinct, and 
even the sneezing instinct. The most able refuter of 
these instincts is Dr. Priestley ; who maintains, with the 
earliest disciples of Locke, that we have from nature no 
innate sense of truth, — that even the action of sucking in 
new-born infants is to be accounted for upon principles 
of mechanism. The question is a very difficult one, and 
I rather decline entering into a long dissertation upon 
suckling, in this Institution ; but I believe Dr. Hartley is 


in the right, and that it would not be easy to show any- 
clear case of instinct among men ; and that children 
suckle first mechanically, then receive pleasure from it, 
then associate the action with the pleasure, and then do 
it from appetite. There is an extremely good article 
upon the subject of instinct in the Scotch Encyclopaedia, 
in which Dr. Reid is very justly censured for the con- 
fusion he has made, in treating of the doctrine of instinct. 
If a man swallow his food, all the requisite motions of 
nerves and muscles take place in their proper order, 
though the man neither knows, nor wills, any thing 
about them. Breathing, according to the Doctor, de- 
pends upon instinct. When a man is tumbling off his 
horse, and makes an effort to recover himself, he regains 
his saddle by instinct, according to Dr. Reid. Breathing, 
with due submission to Dr. Reid, is a mere case of 
mechanism, with which the mind has nothing to do. If 
you recover yourself when you fall, your motion depends 
upon mere habit and association ; the muscles that act 
in swallowing, are, according to the Hartleian theory, 
and in all probability, moved first mechanically, then by 
volition. How it comes about, that the will can ever 
move any part of the body, — that mind can ever act 
upon matter, — is another question. That phenomenon is 
common to almost every description of animate beings ; 
but it is a great abuse of terms to call it by the name of 
instinct. Actions performed with a view to accomplish 
a certain end, are rational. Actions performed without 
the spontaneity of the agent, are automatic. Actions 
regularly performed without a view to the consequences 
they produce, are instinctive. Upon these distinctions, 
every discussion upon human and animal faculties must 
be grounded. 

One of the best attacks made upon the doctrine of in- 
stinct, is by Dr. Darwin : but he fights too much against 
common experience, to combat with much success. One 
of Dr. Darwin's objections to this doctrine of instinct is, 
that the instincts of animals bend to circumstances, 
which, if they were arbitrary admonitions of nature, they 
would not do. Our domestic birds, that are plentifully 
supplied through the year with their adapted food, and 


are covered by houses from the inclemency of the 
weather, lay their eggs at any season ; which evinces 
that the spring of the year is not pointed out to them, 
says Dr. Darwin, by a necessary instinct. Now I con- 
fess, to me, this fact points precisely to an opposite 
inference. What is the instinct ? To hatch their young 
at a season of the year when the weather is mild, and 
when food is plenty. Nature knows nothing about the 
Golden Letter ; she never looks into the almanac, and is 
quite ignorant when Easter falls ; but she prompts the 
bird to hatch her young, by those different feelings of 
body, which copious food, and genial warmth, produce. 
They are the feelings which precede the instinctive ac- 
tion : and if you make perpetual spring to the animal all 
the year round, similar feelings produce similar instincts ; 
and, instead of refuting the supposition that the animal 
is under the influence of instinct, powerfully confirm it. 
Dr. Darwin's mistake proceeds from this : he supposes 
Nature intended birds to hatch in April or May ; where- 
as, Nature intended they should hatch when they are 
warm, and well fed ; which, in a state of nature, they are 
in those months ; but which, when protected by man, in 
order that they may be eaten, they are at all times. It 
would be just as rational to say, that Nature did not in- 
tend the production of green peas to depend upon the 
humid warmth of the spring, because the humid warmth 
of the spring is counterfeited in hot-houses, and a dish of 
peas is produced in December, to the astonishment of 
ordinary understandings, and to the endless glory of the 
lady at whose table they are displayed. 

In the same manner the rabbit digs a burrow in his 
wild state. In his tame state, he spares himself that 
trouble. But to this, which delights Dr. Darwin so very 
highly, I have two answers : a tame rabbit, in all proba- 
bility, does not burrow in the earth, because he is shut 
up in a deal box, and kept in a garret ; and if he refuse 
to burrow, though turned out, the explanation of this 
change in his instincts is accounted for precisely upon 
the same principles as the last. Nature does not at once 
put the animal upon making a burrow ; but it impels it to 
do that thing by some previous feeling of body or mind, 


by hunger, by cold, by fear, or by the change of feelings 
in the body, when about to produce its young. You 
change the feelings which by the law of nature precede 
the action, and then the action is not performed. You 
may very likely discover some moral affection, or some 
change in the body, which precedes all instinctive mo- 
tions ; but the difficulty is still as great as it was before. 
Why does cold make the rabbit dig a burrow ? Why 
does warmth induce the bird to build a nest after that 
ancient model of nests which it has never seen ? Such 
things do not occur in our species. We must, therefore, 
find for them some other appellation than that of reason, 
by which all our actions are swayed. 

The most curious instance of a change of instinct is 
mentioned by Darwin. The bees carried over to Bar- 
badoes and the Western Isles, ceased to lay up any 
honey after the first year ; as they found it not useful to 
them. They found the weather so fine and materials for 
making honey so plentiful, that they quitted their grave, 
prudent, and mercantile character, became exceedingly 
profligate and debauched, eat up their capital, resolved 
to work no more, and amused themselves by flying about 
the sugar-houses, and stinging the blacks. The fact is, 
that by putting animals in different situations, you may 
change, and even reverse, any of their original propensi- 
ties. Spallanzani brought up an eagle upon bread and 
milk, and fed a dove on raw beef. The circumstances 
by which an animal is surrounded, impel him to do so 
and so, by the changes they produce in his body and 
mind. Alter those circumstances, and he no longer 
does as he did before. This, instead of disproving the 
existence of an instinct, only points out the causes on 
which it depends. Many actions of animals have been 
mistaken for instinctive, which are not so ; or, rather, 
the object for which they act has been mistaken. It is 
supposed that ants lay up their magazines against the 
winter: "but ants," says Buffbn, "are torpid in the win- 
ter, and don't eat at all ; therefore, what is the use of 
their magazines ?" Why, this is the use of their maga- 
zines ; that there come often enough, before the season 
of their torpor, three or four rainy days, when they can 


not venture out to get any food, and then their mag- 
azine is of importance. Besides, the Count should 
have told us whether they do not revive again before 
the provisions on which they subsist ; if they do, there is 
another reason why they should have a stock in hand. 
Neither does it disprove the existence of instinct, be- 
cause the instinct is sometimes not so fine and so mi- 
nute as might have been expected, or was supposed. 
" The provisions of the ant, of the field-mouse, and of 
the bee," says BufFon, " are discovered to be only use- 
less and disproportioned masses, collected without any 
view to futurity; and the minute and particular laws 
of their pretended foresight are reduced to the general 
and real law of feeling." All that this objection amounts 
to is, that Nature has not impelled these animals to col- 
lect a certain quantity avoirdupois ; that they are taught 
to collect, and that the impulse only operates within 
gross limits, but still with sufficient precision for the 
preservation of the animal. So the instinct of a bird to 
sit upon eggs exists, though it is given very grossly, for 
it will sit upon a chalk-stone like an egg. The instinct 
is to foster, with the heat of its body, that which it pro- 
duces. In the absence of the bird, you put in that which 
resembles its production ; the bird has no other mode of 
judging, but by the eye, — the eye is deceived. This 
only proves that the instinct is gross, not that it does not 
exist. But while I am talking about the instincts of 
ducks and rabbits, a certain instinct, very valuable in a 
professor, admonishes me that I am tiring my audience, 
and that it is time to put an end to my lecture. The 
enemies of moral philosophy may, perhaps, say this feel- 
ing is experience, and not instinct ; however, be it what 
it may, I shall obey it, and conclude the subject at our 
next meeting. 



Before I proceed upon the body of this lecture, I wish 
to state, by anticipation, the doctrines it will contain ; 
and this I shall do very shortly, reserving the proof for 
its proper place. Animals are not mere machines, like 
clocks and watches. It is a very dangerous doctrine to 
assert, that so much apparent choice and deliberation 
can exist in mere matter. If they are not merely mate- 
rial (like machines of human invention), they must be a 
composition of mind and matter. There are observable 
in the minds of brutes, faint traces and rudiments of the 
human faculties. This position has been maintained by 
Reid, Locke, Hartley, Stewart, and all the best writers 
on these subjects. If man were a solitary animal, like 
a lion or a bear, he would not be so superior to all ani- 
mals as he is. If he had the hoof of oxen instead of 
hands, he would not be so superior : neither would he, 
if he had less perfect organs of speech ; nor if his life 
were confined to a very few years, instead of being ex- 
tended to seventy. But all these things will not do by 
any means alone, as the degraders of human nature have 
said ; for there are some animals, which very nearly 
possess all these advantages, and yet are perfectly con- 
temptible, when compared even to the lowest of men. 
But the great source of man's superiority is, the immense 
and immeasurable disproportion of those faculties, of 
which Nature has given the mere rudiments to brutes ; 
that this disproportion has made man a speculative ani- 
mal, even where his mere existence is not concerned ; 
that it has made him a progressive animal ; that it has 
made him a religious animal ; and that upon that mere 


superiority, and on the very principle that the chain of 
mind and spirit terminates here with man, the best and 
the most irrefragable arguments for the immortality of 
the soul are founded, which natural religion can afford : 
that, independent of revelation, it would be impossible 
not to perceive that man is the object of the creation, 
and that he, and he alone, is reserved for another and a 
better state of existence. These are my principles, in 
which if any man here present differ from me, I trust at 
least he will have the kindness and the politeness to 
hear me. 

There is another circumstance, very decisive of the 
nature of instinct, and which goes strongly to show it is 
something very different from reason. I mean the uni- 
formity of actions in animals. The bees now build ex- 
actly as they built in the time of Homer ; the bear is as 
ignorant of good manners as he was two thousand years 
past ; and the baboon is still as unable to read and write, 
as persons of honor and quality were in the time of 
Queen Elizabeth. Of the improvements made by the 
insect tribe, we can not speak with much certainty ; and 
the advocates for the perfectibility of animals, tell us, 
it is impossible that ants' nests may be laid out with 
much greater regularity than they used to be, and that 
experience may have taught them many methods of 
draining off water, and preventing the growth of ears 
of barley. It certainly may, but we have no sort of 
proof that it does; and the analogy of all large ani- 
mals, whose economy we are perfectly acquainted 
with, and can easily observe, is against the supposi- 
tion. Neither is it from any lack of inconveniences, 
nor any extraordinary contentedness with their situ- 
ation, that any species of animals remains in such a 
state of sameness. The wolf often kills twenty times 
as much as he wants ; and if he could hit upon any means 
of preserving his superfluous plunder, he would not per- 
ish of hunger so often as he does. To lay traps for the 
hunters, and to eat them as they were caught, would be 
far preferable to all those animals who are the cause, 
and the contents, of traps themselves. Animals, like 
men, are goaded by wants and sufferings ; but, contrary 


to the nature of men, they do not overcome, but endure 
them. The flesh of the savage was originally as strong 
a temptation to the bear, as the flesh of the bear was to 
the savage. The wants of the one impelled him to in- 
vention ; the other retained his original stupidity, in spite 
of his wants. There are some few and inconsiderable 
instances of tribes of animals making some slight change 
in their habits, to adapt themselves to any new situation 
in which they may be placed ; but these changes are 
very little ameliorative of their condition, and by no 
means go to destroy the supposition of their being di- 
rected in many instances by a mere instinct. This 
sameness of habits in animals does not demonstrate that 
they are not guided by reason, but it renders it in the 
highest degree improbable that they should be. It is not 
quite impossible, that animals resolving to build a nest, 
should for two thousand years build precisely in the 
same manner, and that this structure should be equally 
resorted to, by those who have, and who have not, seen 
the model of the nest ; — it is not impossible, but it is so 
contrary to all former experience, that it certainly gives 
us no relief from the pain of being forced to believe in 
instinct. But the Chinese are stationary, and so are the 
Hindoos, — they are now exactly what they were twenty 
centuries ago. Certainly they are : but, then, they are 
so from religious prejudice, transmitted from parent to 
child ; and if it can be proved (which it can not), that 
bees and ants only gain their habits from old bees and 
ants, I admit the whole question of instinct is very ma- 
terially changed : but the fact is the reverse ; and if the 
fact were the reverse also with the Chinese, — if a young 
Chinese, brought out of his own country very young, 
were, without ever having seen another Chinese, to be- 
gin at the age of five or six to eat rice with two sticks, 
to clothe himself in blue and nankeen, and adore the 
great idol Foo, we must call this sameness the sameness 
of instinct ; but as he does these foolish things because 
he lives with other Chinese, it is the sameness proceed- 
ing from imitation, and strengthened, as we happen to 
know it to be, by religious association. I have thus far 
attempted to prove that brutes are guided by some prin- 


ciple, which is not the principle of reason. There is 
another philosophy that degrades them merely to the 
state of machines. The great Descartes looked upon a 
brute as a mere machine, that could no more help acting 
as it does act, and was no more conscious of how it acts, 
than the Androides, or the chess-playing machine. All 
that the arguments brought forward by Descartes, go to 
prove, are, that such a case is possible ; — that they may 
be so many machines, not that they are so, — that it in- 
volves no contradiction to call them machines ; which 
every one who understands any thing of reasoning, would 
willingly grant : but, observe, when we have no means 
of subjecting our question to the direct evidence of the 
senses, or to mathematical demonstration, we must re- 
sort to analogy ; without which, one conjecture is quite 
as probable as another. We get from the observation 
of ourselves, the notion both of voluntary and involun- 
tary motion. We are conscious that when we choose 
to put one leg before another we can do so. If we tum- 
ble out of bed, we are conscious we fall to the ground 
without the smallest intention of so doing, but that we 
are overruled by a power we can not resist. Now, hav- 
ing gained the knowledge of these two principles, from 
what passes within ourselves, we proceed to apply it, 
with as much attention as possible, to similarity of cir- 
cumstances. A person sees another man, made to all 
appearance like himself; he does not think him, per- 
haps, quite so good looking, but it is the same sort of 
animal ; and when he sees him walk, — presuming that 
like effects are produced by like causes,— he believes that 
he is not moved by any principle of mechanism, but that 
the gentleman walks because he chooses to walk : but 
the same person puts his foot upon a stone, and falls on 
a sudden, flat upon his face; that, says the observer, 
must be involuntary motion, because I have experienced 
the same myself upon similar occasions. In the same 
manner, he perceives a horse running after his food, 
playing with other horses, avoiding pain and seeking 
pleasure. Upon the same principle, that similar effects 
are produced by similar causes, he determines that the 
horse has sensation, and consciousness, and will ; still 


determining the matter by a reference to his own pre- 
vious experience, which, whether it be a good or a bad 
guide, is the only one that can possibly be resorted to in 
such conjectures. By a reference to the same principle, 
we believe that a stone, let loose from the hand, does not 
fall to the ground by choice, but by necessity ; and be- 
tween the two clear and extreme points, of motion pro- 
duced by external agency, and motion produced by will, 
delicate cases must occur, where the opposite analogies 
are so equally balanced, that it is impossible to determine 
whether the subject thinks or not. For instance, does 
the sensitive plant think, when it contracts its leaves 
upon being touched ? does it really feel danger or pain ? 
or is it a mere involuntary contraction, such as takes 
place in the human body when a nerve is stimulated ? 
When a plant in a dark cellar turns round to drink in a 
ray of light let in, is this the action of a reasoning being, 
that knows what is its proper food, and seeks it ? or is 
it a mere case of chemical action, in which there is no 
interference of the will ? Opposite analogies seem to be 
so balanced in these kinds of questions, that it is very 
difficult to resolve them : but to comparison alone we 
can resort for it ; and comparison shows us, that animals 
can not possibly gain some of their knowledge as we 
gain ours ; and it makes it also probable, that they do 
gain a very considerable part precisely as we do. 

Before I proceed to speak of the faculties of animals, I 
wish to anticipate an objection which has been made to 
my use of the word faculty. Some friends of mine have 
asked me, whether animals had the religious faculty ; 
and whether I mean to say, in stating they had the rudi- 
ments of our faculties, that they had the rudiments of 
this faculty also. Such sort of questions evince, more 
than any thing else, the necessity of a little candor and 
moderation on these topics, and of proceeding to ex- 
planation, before we proceed to blame. I never before 
heard religion called & faculty : a knowledge of religion 
is acquired by our faculties, and it is the highest proof 
of the degree in which we possess them ; but if the 
power is to be confounded with the object of that power, 
— if all those things that we acquire by means of our 


faculties are to be called our faculties, — then, navigation, 
commerce, and agriculture are faculties ! Any man is 
perfectly free to use the word in this sense if he pleases ; 
only let it not be made an objection to me, that I have not 
followed such an example, and that I have used words 
as they always hitherto have been used. I shall now 
proceed to the specification of my authorities.* 

Respecting the faculties of animals, I shall translate 
from " Lettres sur les Animaux," by Bailly, two anec- 
dotes respecting brutes, which Mr. Stewart quotes in 
his " Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind." 

" A friend of mine," says Mr. Bailly, " a man of un- 
derstanding and strict veracity, related to me these 
two facts, of which he was an eye-w r itness. He had a 
very intelligent ape, to whom he amused himself by giv- 
ing w 7 alnuts, of w T hich the animal was extremely fond. 
One day, he placed them at such a distance from the 
ape, that the animal, restrained by his chain, could not 
reach them : after many useless efforts to indulge him- 
self in his favorite delicacy, he happened to see a servant 
pass by with a napkin under his arm ; he immediately 
seized hold of it, whisked it out beyond his arm, to beat 
the nuts within his reach, and so obtained possession of 
them. His mode of breaking the walnut was a fresh 
proof of his inventive powers ; he placed the walnut 
upon the ground, let a great stone fall upon it, and so got 
at its contents. One day, the ground on which he had 
placed the walnut was so much softer than usual, that, 
instead of breaking the walnut, the ape only drove it 
into the earth : what does the animal do ? he takes up a 
tile, places the walnut upon it, and then lets the stone 
fall, while the walnut is in this position." 

Admitting these facts to be true, — and they appear to 
be well authenticated, — it is impossible to deny that 
there passed in the mind of this animal, all that custom- 
ary process of invention that w T ould take place in our 
own minds, when we were engaged in similar under- 
takings. If a man were to drop his hat in the water, 
and by means of a stick to get it out again, he would 

* Locke, pp. 59, 60, 61, 213, 330; Hartley, 247; Reid, 114. 


have done much the same sort of thing as this animal 
did. When Mr. Bramah invents his patent locks, I can 
tell him what passes in his mind : he first pauses in- 
tensely upon the idea of what he wishes to accomplish, 
— an outside ward or wards, that revolve with the key, 
or some of the mysteries of locksmithery : after he has 
paused some time, all the ideas anywise related to this 
first idea, flock into his mind, and among these, he dis- 
covers some relation which one bears to the other, that 
he did not know before, and which will lead to the end 
he has in view. Exactly so Condillac's ape : his object 
was to obtain the walnut ; he dwelt upon that idea ; a 
thousand related ideas occurred to his mind ; he put 
out one foot, then another ; laid himself down upon his 
back, to lengthen the extent of his foot as much as possi- 
ble ; and then, when he was dwelling upon these ideas, 
the relation that subsisted between the napkin and the 
attainment of the nut, rushed across his mind, and he 
availed himself of it : and precisely by the same process 
of understanding he made use of the tile, to lay over 
the soft earth. When an old greyhound that has been 
accustomed to follow the hare fairly, begins to run cun- 
ning, or when two greyhounds are in pursuit of a hare, 
and one of them runs to a gap in the hedge, which it 
had known before, and through which it is probable the 
hare will pass, — in what does this latter greyhound 
differ, in his way of acting and reasoning, from an old 
sportsman, who is too lazy to follow the hounds outright, 
and cuts across to save time and labor ? I have reason 
to believe that somebody is lost in a snow storm ; — I 
mark the track of his feet, distinguishing it carefully 
from other footsteps ; all of a sudden I lose the track, — 
what does common sense point out to me to do ? I go 
all round in a circle, at the very spot where the signs 
were first deficient, to see if I can recover the thread of 
my pursuit. A little boy, whom I have with me, is per- 
petually mistaking every mark he sees for the true one, 
and calling out he has found it ; I pay no sort of atten- 
tion to what he says, for I know that he is young and 
volatile, and 1 continue the search myself; but if I hear 
the voice of a trusty servant at a distance, exclaiming 


that he has rediscovered the track, I immediately repair 
to the spot, with a strong belief that it will turn out to 
be the fact : and it is so. Now, during all this time, 
have I not been exercising my reasoning ? have I not 
been applying my previous experience to the new cases 
before me ? and could not the reasons upon which I 
have acted, be drawn out into so many syllogisms ? 
And do not hounds in the pursuit of their game, con- 
duct themselves in a manner similar to this ? They go 
on straightforward as far as the scent lasts ; when it 
fails them, they cast round in a circle to recover it. The 
old hounds pay not the smallest attention to the yelping 
of the young ones : they know they are not to be trusted ; 
but the moment an old experienced hound gives tongue, 
the whole pack resort to him, without the least hesita- 
tion, and consider their object as gained. I confess I 
am quite at a loss to decide what difference there is be- 
tween the faculties employed on both these occasions. 
A hunted stag will return again upon the line it has 
been running, then give three or four strong bounds, 
scarcely touching the ground, and make off in a lateral 
direction : sometimes he will run in among other deer 
and cattle, and endeavor to elude the sagacity of the 
dogs by these means ; at other times he will hide himself 
up to the nose in reeds and water. All this implies a 
vast deal of previous observation, a fund of experience, 
and a ready application of that experience to new cases. 
The artifices of a gentleman pursued by bailiffs, and the 
artifices of an animal pursued for his life, are the same 
thing, — call them by what name you please. Of all 
animals, the most surprising stories are told of the docility 
of elephants. The black people, who have the care of 
them, often go away, leaving them chained to a stake, 
and place near them their young children, as if under 
their care : the elephant allows the little creatures to 
crawl as far as its trunk can reach, and then gently takes 
the young master up, and places him more within his own 
control. Every one knows the old story of the tailor 
and the elephant, which, if it be not true, at least shows 
the opinion the Orientals, who know the animal well, 
entertain of his sagacity. An eastern tailor to the court 


was making a magnificent doublet for a bashaw of nine 
tails, and covering it, after the manner of eastern doub- 
lets with gold, silver, and every species of metallic magnifi- 
cence. As he was busying himself on this momentous 
occasion, there passed by, to the pools of water, one of 
the royal elephants, about the size of a broad-wheeled 
wagon, rich in ivory teeth, and shaking with its ponder- 
ous tread, the tailor's shop to its remotest thimble. As 
he passed near the window, the elephant happened to 
look in ; the tailor lifted up his eyes, perceived the pro- 
boscis of the elephant near him, and, being seized with a 
fit of facetiousness, pricked the animal with his needle : 
the mass of matter immediately retired, stalked away to 
the pool, filled his trunk full of muddy water, and, return- 
ing to the shop, overwhelmed the artisan and his doublet 
with the dirty effects of his vengeance. Instances of 
memory in animals, and of the most tenacious memory, 
are endless. If an animal obey the voice of his master, 
or love the hand that feeds him, it is association. In 
what way can a sheep or a dog find his way back thirty 
or forty miles, over a country he has passed but once, 
through by-paths and over extensive downs ? What is 
all this but the most acute attention, and the most 
accurate memory ? A dog, to do this, must have paid 
the most accurate attention to cart-ruts, little hillocks, 
single shrubs, and the minutest marks which guide him 
in his course. Almost all animals are very diligent ob- 
servers of places, and know them by a thousand criteria 
which we do not observe, and which, from the extent of 
horizon we comprehend in our view, we have no occa- 
sion to observe. It must be from that same habit of 
observation, common to all animals, and from the same 
necessity they are under of observing attentively, that 
American Indians are able to find their way across the 
woods, in the very surprising manner mentioned by Mr. 
Weld, in his very sensible, judicious, and impartial 
Travels in America. They will penetrate through a 
wood of many leagues in extent, which they have not 
passed for twenty years before, without deviating a single 
step from their former track : the fact is, they are com- 
pelled (like animals), from a consideration of their 


safety, to observe with the closest attention, — and 
whatever is observed closely, is remembered tenaciously. 
Animals profit by experience, as we do, — not so much, 
but in the same manner. All old animals are much 
more cunning, with much more difficulty caught in 
traps, and hunted with dogs, than young animals : an 
old wolf, or an old fox, will walk round a trap twenty 
times, examining every circumstance with the utmost 
attention : and those who deceive them, are only enabled 
to do so by every possible care and circumspection. 
They have abstract ideas, exactly as we have abstract 
ideas. When a huntsman whips a hare out of its form, 
he sees only an individual object ; but he knows that 
this individual animal has qualities and properties com- 
mon to a whole species ; and the greyhound that pur- 
sues that particular hare, — be it little or be it big, — 
knows that it has properties common to all other ani- 
mals, — that it is quick, cunning, and good to eat : in 
the same manner, a dog that lives in a town, meets 
sometimes a man in a yellow coat, sometimes in a green 
one, sometimes a tall man, sometimes a short man, but 
he knows they are all men ; each man excites in him 
nearly the same idea from the qualities he possesses, in 
common with all other men, and in spite of his own in- 
dividual peculiarities. Locke says that animals have no 
universal ideas ; that they do not abstract : but, then, 
Locke was mistaken in supposing that men had uni- 
versal ideas. Bishop Berkeley has demonstrated, — and 
his demonstration is universally agreed to by every one, 
— that it is nonsense to talk about universal ideas ; that 
there are no such things as universal ideas ; and that 
what we have called universal ideas are nothing but par- 
ticular ones, accompanied with the notion that they are 
common to a species. 

Then, again, for the affections of animals. They 
grieve, rejoice, play, are ennuied, as we are ; feel anger, 
as we do ; parental affection, and personal attachment. 
There are stories in Smellie's "Natural Philosophy," 
and well authenticated, of a very serious attachment 
that subsisted between a dunghill-cock and a horse, who 
happened to be kept in the same paddock together. 


Every body has seen the lapdog and the lioness in the 
Tower ; and I believe a lamb also has been kept in the 
Tower with the lions. In short, every body has innu- 
merable stories to tell of the affections of animals ; and 
the difficulty is, rather to abridge than to multiply them. 
Now, if I am right in stating that animals have the 
same sort of faculties as man, the question immediately 
occurs of the origin of that distinction and superiority 
which man has gained over all other animated beings. 
One cause of that superiority I conceive to be, his lon- 
gevity : without it, that accumulation of experience in 
action, and of knowledge in speculation, could not have 
existed ; and though man would still have been the first 
of all animals, the difference between him and others 
would have been less considerable than it now is. The 
w T isdom of a man is made up of what he observes, and 
what others observe for him ; and of course the sum of 
what he can acquire must principally depend upon the 
time in which he can acquire it. All that we add to our 
knowledge is not an increase, by that exact proportion, 
of all we possess ; because we lose some things, as we 
gain others ; but upon the whole, while the body and 
mind remain healthy, an active man increases in intelli- 
gence, and consequently in power. If we lived seven 
hundred years instead of seventy, we should write better 
epic poems, build better houses, and invent more com- 
plicated mechanism, than we do now. I should question 
very much if Mr. Milne could build a bridge so well as 
a gentleman who had engaged in that occupation for 
seven centuries : and if I had had only two hundred 
years' experience in lecturing on moral philosophy, I am 
well convinced I should do it a little better than I now 
do. On the contrary, how diminutive and absurd all 
the efforts of man would have been, if the duration of 
his life had only been twenty years, and if he had died 
of old age just at the period when every human being 
begins to suspect that he is the wisest and most extra- 
ordinary person that ever did exist ! I think it is Hel- 
vetius who says, he is quite certain we only owe our 
superiority over the ourang-outangs to the greater length 
of life conceded to us ; and that, if our life had been as 



short as theirs, they would have totally defeated us in 
the competition for nuts and ripe blackberries. I can 
hardly agree to this extravagant statement ; but I think, 
in a life of twenty years the efforts of the human mind 
would have been so considerably lowered, that we might 
probably have thought Helvetius a good philosopher, 
and admired his skeptical absurdities as some of the 
greatest efforts of the human understanding. Sir Richard 
Blackmore would have been our greatest poet ; our wit 
would have been Dutch ; our faith, French ; the Hotten- 
tots would have given us the model for manners, and the 
Turks for government ; and we might probably have 
been such miserable reasoners respecting the sacred 
truths of religion, that we should have thought they 
wanted the support of a puny and childish jealousy of 
the poor beasts that perish. His gregarious nature is 
another cause of man's superiority over all other animals. 
A lion lies under a hole in a rock ; and if any other lion 
happen to pass by, they fight. Now, whoever gets a 
habit of lying under a hole in a rock, and fighting with 
every gentleman who passes near him, can not possibly 
make any progress. Every man's understanding and 
acquirements, how great and extensive soever they may 
appear, are made up from the contributions of his friends 
and companions. You spend your morning in learning 
from Hume what happened at particular periods of your 
own history : you dine where some man tells you what 
he has observed in the East Indies, and another dis- 
courses of brown sugar and Jamaica. It is from these 
perpetual rills of knowledge, that you refresh yourself, 
and become strong and healthy as you are. If lions 
would consort together, and growl out the observations 
they have made, about killing sheep and shepherds, the 
most likely places for catching a calf grazing, and so 
forth, they could not fail to improve ; because they would 
be actuated by such a wide range of observation, and 
operating by the joint force of so many minds. It may 
be said, that the gregarious spirit in man, may proceed 
from his wisdom ; and not his wisdom from his gre- 
garious spirit. This I should doubt. It appears to be 
an original principle in some animals, and not in others ; 


and is a quality given to some to better their condition, 
as swiftness or strength is given to others. The tiger 
lives alone, — bulls and cows do not ; yet, a tiger is as 
wise an animal as a bull. A wild boar lives with the 
herd till he comes of age, which he does at three years, 
and then quits the herd and lives alone. There is a 
solitary species of bee, and there is a gregarious bee. 
Whether an animal should herd or not, seems to be as 
much a provision of nature, as whether it should crawl, 
creep, or fly. 

A third method, in which man gains the dominion 
over other animals, is by the structure of his body, and 
the mechanism of his hands. Suppose, with all our 
understanding, it had pleased Providence to make us like 
lobsters, or to imprison us in shells like crayfish, I very 
much question if the monkeys would not have converted 
us into sauce ; nor can I conceive any possible method, 
by which such a fate could have been averted. Suppose 
man, with the same faculties, the same body, and the 
hands and feet of an ox, — what then w r ould have been 
his fate ? Anaxagoras is represented by ancient authors 
as maintaining that man owes all his superiority in wis- 
dom and knowledge to the structure of his hands. That 
hands will not do every thing, is very plain, because 
monkeys have hands, and make no use of them for any 
purpose of ameliorating their condition. All that can 
be said of the hand is, that it is a very exquisite tool, — 
but a tool does not make an artist; it is a means by 
which an artist carries his conceptions into execution, — 
but his conceptions do not depend upon his tools. There 
can be no doubt, however, but that the destiny of man, 
and the extent of his faculties have been very consider- 
ably influenced by this mechanism of the hand. The 
first thing to be done in the progress of civilization, is to 
mitigate the physical inconveniences by which man is 
surrounded : this can not be done without smelting the 
metals, breaking up the surface of the earth, and doing 
innumerable things, which, without as perfect an organ 
as the hand, could not be done. Without the hand, man 
would not have fused metals ; without the fusion of 
metals, he would never have got very far above the 


pressure of immediate want ; and consequently his facul- 
ties would not have been what they now are. Neither is 
it simply by securing to him the free and uninterrupted 
exercise of his faculties, that the instruments — his hands 
- — have invented, have improved his understanding ; but 
those instruments have opened to his observation new 
and unlimited fields of knowledge, which have re-excited 
those faculties by the strongest stimulus of curiosity, and 
improved them by exercise. Accident, perhaps, first 
gave the notion of glass : there was some talent in ascer- 
taining the precise circumstances upon which the first 
observed appearances depended ; but to what infinite 
talent has this discovery contributed ! how much curi- 
osity has it excited! what powerful understandings it 
has called into action ! how it has widened the materials 
of human knowledge, and guided the mind of man to 
the most abstruse speculations ! 

Then, again, man owes something to his size and 
strength. If he had been only tw r o feet high, he could 
not possibly have subdued the earth, and roasted and 
boiled animated nature in the way he now does. Some- 
thing he owes also to the number and perfection of his 
senses ; because, though there may be some one animal 
which excels him in each particular sense, there are few 
who enjoy all their senses in such perfection. 

This is all very well : these (which I have stated) are 
clearly conspiring causes ; but they will not do alone, as 
the enemies to man have absurdly contended. The ape 
has hands as good, and stature as great, and is as fond of 
society, and his senses are as acute as ours ; and yet, the 
ape has certainly hitherto taken no very surprising part 
in the political revolutions of the earth, — done very little 
for science, — and seems, with the exception of a few 
atheists, and metaphysicians, to be held in very little 
honor by any body. The fact seems to be, that though 
almost every quality of mind we possess, can be traced 
in some trifling degree in brutes, yet that degree, com- 
pared with the extent in which the same quality is ob- 
servable in man, is very low and inconsiderable. For 
instance, we can not say that animals are devoid of cu- 
riosity, but they have a very slight degree of curiosity : 


they imitate, but they imitate very slightly in comparison 
with men ; they can not imitate any thing very difficult ; 
and many of them hardly imitate at all : they abstract, 
but they can not make such compound abstractions as 
men do ; they have no such compounded abstractions as 
city, prudence, fortitude, parliament, and justice : they 
reason, but their reasonings are very short and very ob- 
vious : they invent, but their inventions are extremely 
easy, and not above the reach of a human idiot. The 
story I quoted from Bailly, about the ape and the wal- 
nuts, is one of the most extraordinary I ever read ; but 
what a wretched limit of intellect does it imply, to be 
cited as an instance of extraordinary sagacity ! 

But all the faculties which every animal possesses, are 
given him for the mere purposes of existence. When 
his life is endangered, when his young are to be secured, 
and his prey entrapped, he develops the limited re- 
sources of his nature ; for every thing else he has no 
talents at all; nor has any animal ever betrayed the 
slightest disposition to knowledge, — except as knowledge 
gratified immediately his hunger, or as would immediate- 
ly have secured his life. Whereas, man is so far from 
being influenced only by the moment which is passing 
over his head, that he looks back to centuries past for 
the guide of his actions, and to centuries to come for 
their motive. In fact, nothing can be more weak, and 
mistaken than to suppose that the doctrine of the immor- 
tality of the soul, depends upon making brutes mere 
machines, or denying to them the mere outlines of our 
faculties. To talk of God being the soul of brutes, is the 
worst and most profane degradation of divine power. 
To suppose that He who regulates the rolling of the 
planets, and the return of seasons, by general laws, inter- 
feres, by a special act of his power, to make a bird fly, 
and an insect flutter, — to suppose that a gaudy moth 
can not expand its wings to the breeze, or a lark unfold 
its plumage to the sun, without the special mandate of 
that God who fixes incipient passions in the human 
heart, and leaves them to produce a Borgia to scourge 
mankind, or a Newton to instruct them, — is not piety, 
or science, but a most pernicious substitution of degrad- 


ing conjectures, from an ignorant apprehension of the 
consequences of admitting plain facts. In the name of 
common sense, what have men to fear from allowing to 
beasts their miserable and contemptible pittance of facul- 
ties ? What can those men have read of the immortality 
of the soul ? what can they think of the strength of 
those arguments on which it is founded, if they believe 
it requires the aid of such contemptible and boyish jeal- 
ousy of the lower order of beings ? what must they feel 
within themselves, to conceive such arguments ? what 
notion must they communicate to others of the fullness, 
and sufficiency, and strength of those powers, when they 
stand quibbling and trembling at every faint semblance 
of reason, which a beast exhibits in searching for water 
and flesh, and eluding the spear of the hunter? The 
enemies of the soul's immortality I do not fear ; I know 
how often they have been vanquished before ; and I am 
quite sure that they will be overthrown again with a 
mighty overthrow, as often as they do appear. But I 
confess I have some considerable dread of the indiscreet 
friends of religion. I tremble at that respectable imbe- 
cility which shuffles away the plainest truths, and thinks 
the strongest of all causes wants the weakest of all aids. 
I shudder at the consequences of fixing the great proofs 
of religion upon any other basis, than that of the widest 
investigation, and most honest statement of facts. I al- 
low such nervous and timid friends to religion to be the 
best and most pious of men ; but a bad defender of re- 
ligion is so much the most pernicious person in the whole 
community, that I most humbly hope such friends will 
evince their zeal for religion, by ceasing to defend it ; 
and remember that not every man is qualified to be the 
advocate of a cause in which the mediocrity of his un- 
derstanding may possibly compromise the dearest and 
most affecting interests of society. What have the 
shadow and mockery of faculties, given to beasts, to do 
with the immortality of the soul ? Have beasts any gen- 
eral fear of annihilation ? have they any love of fame ? 
do their small degrees of faculties ever give them any 
feelings of this nature? are their minds perpetually es- 
caping into futurity ? have they any love of posthumous 


fame ? have they any knowledge of God ? have they ever 
reached, in their conceptions, the slightest traces of a 
hereafter? can they form the notion of duty and ac- 
countability ? is it any violation of any one of the moral 
attributes of the Deity, to suppose that they go back to 
their dust, and that we do not ? Is it no reason to say, 
that, because they partake in the slightest degree of our 
nature, they are entitled to all the privileges of our na- 
ture ; — because, upon that principle, if we partake of the 
nature of any higher order of spirits, we ought to be 
them, and not ourselves ; and they ought to be some 
higher order still, and so on. And if it be inconsistent 
to suppose a difference in duration, then also it is to sup- 
pose a difference in degree, of mind ; and then every 
human being has a right to complain that he is not a 

To conclude : Such truths want not such aids. The 
weakest and the most absurd arguments ever used 
against religion, have been the attempts to compare 
brutes with men ; and the weakest answer to these 
arguments have been, the jealousies which men have 
exhibited of brutes. As facts are fairly stated, and 
boldly brought forward, the more all investigation goes 
to establish the ancient opinion of man, before it was 
confirmed by revealed religion, — that brutes are of this 
world only ; that man is imprisoned here only for a 
season, — to take a better or a worse hereafter, as he 
deserves it. This old truth is the fountain of all good- 
ness, and justice, and kindness among men : may we all 
feel it intimately, obey it perpetually, and profit by it 
eternally ! 



I concluded my last course with a Lecture upon the 
Conduct of the Understanding* (which I intended, as 
I do this, merely for the instruction of young people) ; 
but as such a subject could not, of course, be exhausted 
in any single discussion, I reserved the conclusion of it 
for the present period. 

As it does not appear to me very material to observe 
any order with respect to this subject, I shall merely 
state the observations it suggests, as they occur to my 
mind, without attempting to arrange them. 

It would be a very curious question to agitate, how far 
understanding is transmitted from parent to child ; and 
within what limits it can be improved by culture : 
whether all men are born equal, with respect to their 
understanding ; or, whether there is an original diversity 
antecedent to all imitation and instruction. The analogy 
of animals is in favor of the transmissibility of mind. 
Some ill-tempered horses constantly breed ill-tempered 
colts ; and the foal never has seen the sire, — therefore, 
in this, there can be no imitation. If the eggs of a wild 
duck are hatched under a tame duck, the young brood 
will be much wilder than any common brood of poultry ; 
if they are kept all their lives in a farm-yard, and treated 
kindly, and fed well, their eggs hatched under another 
bird produce a much tamer race. What is the difference 
of suspicion and fear observable in the two broods, but 
a direct transmission of mind, without the possible 
intervention of any imitation or teaching ? However, 

* Page 95. 


whether mind be transmitted, or whether it be affected 
afterward by the earliest circumstances of our lives, 
certainly the fact is, that at the very earliest periods of 
our existence, the strongest differences are observable 
between one individual and another ; which difference 
no subsequent art and attention can ever after destroy. 

One of the rarest sort of understandings we meet with 
in the world, among the numerous diversities which are 
produced, is an understanding fairly and impartially 
open to the reception of truth, coming in any shape, and 
from any quarter ; and it will be of considerable use, in 
a discussion on the conduct of the understanding, to 
consider what those causes are, which render this sort 
of understanding so very rare. One of these causes, 
and the first I shall mention, is indolence. Repose is 
agreeable to the human mind ; and decision is repose. 
A man has made up his opinions ; he does not choose to 
be disturbed ; and he is much more thankful to the man 
who confirms him in his errors, and leaves him alone, 
than he is to the man who refutes him, or who instructs 
him at the expense of his tranquillity. Again : our 
vanity is compromised by our opinions ; we have ex- 
pressed them, and they must be maintained : the object 
is, not to know the truth, but to avoid the shame of 
appearing to have been ignorant of it. 

Words are an amazing barrier to the reception of 
truth. It is a most inestimable habit in the conduct of 
the understanding, before men put their solemn sanction 
to any opinion, — before war, before peace, before expa- 
triation, and all the great events of life, — that men 
should ask themselves whether or not the words by 
which their conduct has been influenced, have really 
any meaning ; and if so, whether they have the meaning, 
in such instances, intended to be affixed to them. Defini- 
tion of words has been commonly called a mere exercise 
of grammarians ; but when we come to consider the 
innumerable murders, proscriptions, massacres, and tor- 
tures, which men have inflicted on each other from 
mistaking the meaning of words, the exercise of defini- 
tion certainly begins to assume rather a more dignified 


Then comes association as another disturber. A man 
has heard such opinions very often ; or, " I have heard 
them when I was young ; and therefore, they must be 
ight ;" — " I hate all Dissenters," or " all Roman Cath- 
lics ;" — or, " I can not endure Americans ;" — and 
such other shocking opinions, upon which men act all 
their lives, — and act very badly, and furiously, and very 
ignorantly, merely because such opinions have been 
instilled into their earliest infancy, and because they 
have never had the power of separating two ideas which 
mere accident first associated together. The cure for 
this confined and narrow species of understanding, is to 
see many things and many men ; to taste of the sweet- 
ness of truth in science, and to cultivate a love of it ; to 
have the words, liberality, candor, knowledge, often in 
your mouth, and at length they will get into your heart ; 
to ask the reason of things, and find the meaning of 
words ; to hear patiently any one who confirms what 
you thought before, or who refutes it ; to propose to 
yourself in life the same object, as the law proposes in 
the examination of evidence, — to get at the truth, and 
nothing but the truth. Without study, no man can ever 
do any thing with his understanding. But in spite of all 
that has been said about the sweets of study, it is a sort 
of luxury, like the taste for olives and coffee — not natural, 
very hard to be acquired, and very easily lost. Very 
few persons begin to study from the love of knowledge, 
or the desire of doing good ; though these are the motives 
with which they ought to begin : but they begin from 
the shame of inferiority, and better motives come after- 

One of the best methods of rendering study agreeable 
is to live with able men, and to suffer all those pangs 
of inferiority, which the want of knowledge always in- 
flicts. Nothing short of some such powerful motive, 
can drive a young person, in the full possession of health 
and bodily activity, to such an unnatural and such an 
unobvious mode of passing his life as study. But this is 
the way that intellectual greatness often begins. The 
trophies of Miltiades drive away sleep. A young man 
sees the honor in which knowledge is held by his fellow- 


creatures ; and he surrenders every present gratification, 
that he may gain them. The honor in which living 
genius is held, the trophies by which it is adorned after 
life, it receives and enjoys from the feelings of men, — ■ 
not from their sense of duty : but men never obey this 
feeling, without discharging the first of all duties ; with- 
out securing the rise and growth of genius, and increas- 
ing the dignity of our nature, by enlarging the dominion 
of mind. No eminent man was ever yet rewarded in 
vain ; no breath of praise was ever idly lavished upon 
him ; it has never yet been idle and foolish to rear up 
splendid monuments to his name: the rumor of these 
things impels young minds to the noblest exertions, cre- 
ates in them an empire over present passions, inures 
them to the severest toils, determines them to live only 
for the use of others, and leave a great and lasting me- 
morial behind them. 

Beside the shame of inferiority, and the love of repu- 
tation, curiosity is a passion very favorable to the love 
of study ; and a passion very susceptible of increase by 
cultivation. Sound travels so many feet in a second ; 
and light travels so many feet in a second. Nothing 
more probable : but you do not care how light and sound 
travel. Very likely : but make yourself care ; get up, 
shake yourself well, pretend to care, make believe to care, 
and very soon you will care, and care so much, that you 
will sit for hours thinking about light and sound, and be 
extremely angry with any one who interrupts you in 
your pursuits ; and tolerate no other conversation but 
about light and sound ; and catch yourself plaguing 
every body to death who approaches you, with the dis- 
cussion of these subjects. I am sure that a man ought 
to read as he would grasp a nettle: — do it lightly, and 
you get molested ; grasp it with all your strength, and 
you feel none of its asperities. There is nothing so hor- 
rible as languid study ; when you sit looking at the 
clock, wishing the time was over, or that somebody 
would call on you and put you out of your misery. The 
only way to read with any efficacy, is to read so heartily, 
that dinner-time comes two hours before you expect it. 
To sit with your Livy before you, and hear the geese 


cackling that saved the capitol ; and to see with your 
own eyes the Carthaginian sutlers gathering up the 
rings of the Roman knights after the battle of Cannae, 
and heaping them into bushels ; and to be so intimately 
present at the actions you are reading of, that when any- 
body knocks at the door, it will take you two or three 
seconds to determine whether you are in your own study, 
or in the plains of Lombardy, looking at Hannibal's 
weather-beaten face, and admiring the splendor of his 
single eye; — this is the only kind of study which is not 
tiresome ; and almost the only kind which is not useless : 
this is the knowledge which gets into the system, and 
which a man carries about and uses like his limbs, with- 
out perceiving that it is extraneous, weighty, or incon- 

To study successfully, the body must be healthy, the 
mind at ease, and time managed with great economy. 
Persons who study many hours in the day, should, per- 
haps, have two separate pursuits going on at the same 
time, — one for one part of the day, and the other for the 
other ; and these of as opposite a nature as possible, — 
as Euclid and Ariosto ; Locke and Homer ; Hartley on 
Man, and Voyages round the Globe ; that the mind may 
be refreshed by change, and all the bad effects of lassi- 
tude avoided. There is one piece of advice, in a life 
of study, which I think no one will object to ; and that 
is, every now and then to be completely idle, — to do 
nothing at all : indeed, this part of a life of study is com- 
monly considered as so decidedly superior to the rest, 
that it has almost obtained an exclusive preference over 
those other parts of the system, with which I wish to see 
it connected. 

It has often been asked whether a man should study 
at stated intervals, or as the fit seizes him, and as he 
finds himself disposed to study. To this I answer, that 
where a man can trust himself, rules are superfluous. 
If his inclinations lead him to a fair share of exertion, he 
had much better trust to his inclinations alone ; where 
they do not, they must be controlled by rules. It is just 
the same with sleep ; and with every thing else. Sleep 
as much as you please, if your inclination lead you only 


to sleep as much as is convenient ; if not, make rules. 
The system in every thing ought to be, — do as you please 
— so long as you please to do what is right. Upon these 
principles, every man must see how far he may trust to 
his inclinations, before he takes away their natural lib- 
erty. I confess, however, it has never fallen to my lot 
to see many persons who could be trusted ; and the 
method, I believe, in which most great men have gone 
to work, is by regular and systematic industry. 

A little hard thinking will supply the place of a great 
deal of reading ; and an hour or two spent in this man- 
ner sometimes lead you to conclusions, which it would 
require a volume to establish. The mind advances in its 
train of thought, as a restive colt proceeds on the road 
in which you wish to guide him ; he is always running 
to one side or the other, and deviating from the proper 
path, to which it is your affair to bring him back. I 
have asked several men what passes in their minds when 
they are thinking ; and I never could find any man who 
could think for two minutes together. Every body has 
seemed to admit that it was a perpetual deviation from a 
particular path, and a perpetual return to it ; which, im- 
perfect as the operation is, is the only method in which 
we can operate with our minds to carry on any process 
of thought. It takes some time to throw the mind into 
an attitude of thought, or into any attitude ; though the 
power of doing this, and, in general, of thinking, is amaz- 
ingly increased by habit. We acquire, at length, a 
greater command over our associations, and are better 
enabled to pursue one object, unmoved by all the other 
thoughts which cross it in every direction. 

One of the best modes of improving in the art of 
thinking, is, to think over some subject, before you read 
upon it ; and then to observe, after what manner it has 
occurred to the mind of some great master. You will 
then observe whether you have been too rash or too 
timid ; what you have omitted, and in what you have 
exceeded ; and by this process you will insensibly catch 
a great manner of viewing a question. It is right in 
study, not only to think when any extraordinary inci- 
dent provokes you to think, but from time to time to 


review what has passed ; to dwell upon it, and to see 
what trains of thought voluntarily present themselves 
to your mind. It is a most superior habit of some 
minds, to refer all the particular truths which strike 
them, to other truths more general : so that their knowl- 
edge is beautifully methodized : and the general truth 
at any time suggests all the particular exemplifications ; 
or any particular exemplification, at once leads to the 
general truth. This kind of understanding has an im- 
mense and decided superiority over those confused heads 
in which one fact is piled upon another, without the 
least attempt at classification and arrangement. Some 
men always read with a pen in their hand, and commit 
to paper any new thought which strikes them ; others 
trust to chance for its reappearance. Which of these is 
the best method in the conduct of the understanding, 
must, I should suppose, depend a great deal upon the 
particular understanding in question. Some men can 
do nothing without preparation ; others, little with it : 
some are fountains, some reservoirs. My very humble 
and limited experience goes to convince me, that it is a 
very useless practice ; that men seldom read again what 
they have committed to paper, nor remember what they 
have so committed one iota the better for their additional 
trouble : on the contrary, I believe it has a direct ten- 
dency to destroy the promptitude and tenacity of 
memory, by diminishing the vigor of present attention, 
and seducing the mind to depend upon future reference : 
at least, such is the effect I have uniformly found it to 
produce upon myself; and the same remark has been 
frequently made to me by other persons, of their own 
habits of study. I am by no means contending against 
the utility and expediency of writing ; on the contrary, 
I am convinced there can be no very great accuracy of 
mind without it. I am only animadverting upon that 
exaggerated use of it, which disunites the mind from the 
body ; renders the understanding no longer portable, but 
leaves a man's wit and talents neatly written out in his 
commonplace book, and safely locked up in the bottom 
drawer of his bureau. This is the abuse of writing. 
The use of it, I presume, is, to give perspicuity and ac- 


curacy : to fix a habitation for, and to confer a name 
upon, our ideas, so that they may be considered and re- 
considered themselves, and in their arrangement. Every 
man is extremely liable to be deceived in his reflections 
till he has habituated himself to putting his thoughts upon 
paper, and perceived from such a process, how often 
propositions that appeared before such development to 
be almost demonstrable, have vanished into nonsense 
when a clearer light has been thrown upon them. I 
should presume, also, that much writing must teach a 
good order and method in the disposition of our reason- 
ings ; because the connection of any one part with the 
whole, will be made so much more evident than it can 
be before it is put into visible signs. Writing, also, must 
teach a much more accurate use of language. In con- 
versation, any language almost will do ; that is, great 
indulgence is extended to the language of talkers, because 
a talker is at hand to explain himself, and his looks and 
gestures are a sort of comment upon his words, and help 
to interpret them : but as a writer has no such auxiliary 
language to communicate his ideas, and no power of re- 
explaining them when once clothed in language, he has 
nothing to depend upon but a steady and careful use of 

The advantage conversation has over all the other 
modes of improving the mind, is, that it is more natural 
and more interesting. A book has no eyes, and ears, 
and feelings ; the best are apt every now and then to 
become a little languid : whereas a living book walks 
about, and varies his conversation and manner, and pre- 
vents you from going to sleep. There is certainly a 
great evil in this, as well as a good ; for the interest be- 
tween a man and his living folio, becomes sometimes a 
little too keen, and in the competition for victory they 
become a little too animated toward, and sometimes ex- 
asperated against, each other : whereas a man and his 
book generally keep the peace with tolerable success ; 
and if they disagree, the man shuts his book, and tosses 
it into a corner of the room, which it might not be quite 
so safe or easy to do with a living folio. It is an incon- 
venience in a book, that you can not ask questions ; there 


is no explanation : and a man is less guarded in conver- 
sation than in a book, and tells you with more honesty 
the little niceties and exceptions of his opinions ; whereas 
in a book, as his opinions are canvassed where they can 
not be explained and defended, he often overstates a 
point for fear of being misunderstood ; but then, on the 
contrary, almost every man talks a great deal better in 
his books, with more sense, more information, and more 
reflection, than he can possibly do in his conversation, 
because he has more time. 

There are few good listeners in the world who make 
all the use that they might make, of the understandings 
of others, in the conduct of their own. The use made 
of this great instrument of conversation is the display of 
superiority, not the gaining of those materials on which 
superiority may rightfully and justly be founded. Every 
man takes a different view of a question as he is influ- 
enced by constitution, circumstances, age, and a thou- 
sand other peculiarities ; and no individual ingenuity can 
sift and examine a subject with as much variety and 
success, as the minds of many men, put in motion by 
many causes, and affected by an endless variety of acci- 
dents. Nothing, in my humble opinion, would bring an 
understanding so forward, as this habit of ascertaining 
and weighing the opinions of others ; — a point in which 
almost all men of abilities are deficient ; whose first im- 
pulse, if they are young, is too often to contradict ; or, 
if the manners of the world have cured them of that, to 
listen only with attentive ears, but with most obdurate 
and unconquerable entrails. I may be very wrong, and 
probably am so, but, in the whole course of my life, I do 
not know that I ever saw a man of considerable under- 
standing respect the understandings of others as much as 
he might have done for his own improvement, and as it 
w r as just that he should do. 

I touched a little, in my last Lecture, upon that habit 
of contradicting, into which young men, — and young 
men of ability in particular, — are apt to fall ; and which 
is a habit extremely injurious to the powers of the under- 
standing. I would recommend to such young men, an 
intellectual regimen, of which I myself, in an earlier 


period of life, have felt the advantage : and that is, to 
assent to the two first propositions that they hear every 
day ; and not only to assent to them, but, if they can, to 
improve and embellish them ; and to make the speaker 
a little more in love with his own opinion than he was 
before. When they have a little got over the bitterness 
of assenting, they may then gradually increase the num- 
ber of assents, and so go on as their constitution will 
bear it; and I have little doubt that, in time, this will 
effect a complete and perfect cure. 

It is a great thing tow r ard making right judgments, if 
a man know what allowance to make for himself; and 
what discount should habitually be given to his opinions, 
according as he is old or young, French or English, 
clergyman or layman, rich or poor, torpid or fiery, 
healthy or ill, sorrowful or gay. All these various cir- 
cumstances are perpetually communicating to the objects 
about them, a color which is not their true color : whereas, 
wisdom is of no age, nation, profession, or temperament ; 
and is neither sorrowful nor sad. A man must have some 
particular qualities, and be affected by some particular 
circumstances ; but the object is, to discover what they 
are, and habitually to allow for them. 

There is one circumstance I would preach up, morn- 
ing, noon, and night, to young persons, for the manage- 
ment of their understanding. Whatever you are from 
nature, keep to it : never desert your own line of talent. 
If Providence only intended you to write posies for rings, 
or mottoes for twelfth-cakes, keep to posies and mottoes : 
a good motto for a twelfth-cake is more respectable than 
a villainous epic poem in twelve books. Be what nature 
intended you for, and you will succeed ; be any thing 
else, and you will be ten thousand times worse than 

If black and white men live together, the consequence 
is, that, unless great care be taken, they quarrel and 
fight. There is nearly as strong a disposition in men of 
opposite minds to despise each other. A grave man 
can not conceive what is the use of a wit in society ; a 
person who takes a strong common-sense view of a sub- 
ject, is for pushing out by the head and shoulders an 


ingenious theorist, who catches at the lightest and faint- 
est analogies ; and another man, who scents the ridic- 
ulous from afar, will hold no commerce with him who 
tastes exquisitely the fine feelings of the heart, and is 
alive to nothing else : whereas talent is talent, and mind 
is mind, in all its branches ! Wit gives to life one of its 
best flavors ; common sense leads to immediate action, 
and gives society its daily motion ; large and compre- 
hensive views, its annual rotation ; ridicule chastises 
folly and impudence, and keeps men in their proper 
sphere ; subtilty seizes hold of the fine threads of truth ; 
analogy darts away to the most sublime discoveries ; 
feeling paints all the exquisite passions of man's soul, 
and rewards him by a thousand inward visitations for 
the sorrows that come from without. God made it all ! 
It is all good ! We must despise no sort of talent : 
they all have their separate duties and uses ; all, the 
happiness of man for their object : they all improve, 
exalt, and gladden life. 

Caution, though it must be considered as something 
very different from talent, is no mean aid to every spe- 
cies of talent. As some men are so skillful in economy, 
that they will do as much with a hundred pounds as an- 
other will do with two, so there is a species of men, who 
have a wonderful management of their understandings, 
and will make as great a show, and enjoy as much con- 
sideration, with a certain quantity of understanding, as 
others will do with the double of their portion : and this 
by watching times and persons ; by taking strong posi- 
tions, and never fighting but from the vantage-ground, 
and with great disparity of numbers ; in short, by risking 
nothing, and by a perpetual and systematic attention to 
the security of reputation. Such rigid economy, — by 
laying out every shilling at compound interest, — very 
often accumulates a large stock of fame, where the ori- 
ginal capital has been very inconsiderable ; and, of 
course, may command any degree of opulence, where it 
sets out from great beginnings, and is united with real 
genius. For the want of this caution, there is an habitual 
levity sometimes fixed upon the minds of able men, and 
a certain manner of viewing and discussing all questions 


in a frivolous, mocking manner, as if they had looked 
through all human knowledge, and found in it nothing 
but what they could easily master, and were entitled to 
despise. Of all mistakes the greatest, to live and to think 
life of no consequence ; to fritter away the powers of 
the understanding, merely to make others believe that 
you possess them in a more eminent degree ; and gradu- 
ally to diminish your interest in human affairs, from an 
affected air of superiority, to which neither yourself nor 
any human being can possibly be entitled. It is a beau- 
tiful mark of a healthy and right understanding, when a 
man is serious and attentive to all great questions ; when 
you observe him, with modesty and attention, adding 
gradually to his conviction and knowledge on such 
topics ; not repulsed by his own previous mistakes, not 
disgusted by the mistakes of others, but in spite of vio- 
lence and error, believing that there is, somewhere or 
other, moderation and truth, — and that to seek that 
truth with diligence, with seriousness, and with con- 
stancy, is one of the highest and best objects for which 
a man can live. 

Some men get early disgusted with the task of im- 
provement, and the cultivation of the mind, from some 
excesses which they have committed, and mistakes into 
which they have been betrayed, at the beginning of life. 
They abuse the whole art of navigation because they 
have stuck upon a shoal ; whereas, the business is, to 
refit, careen, and set out a second time. The naviga- 
tion is very difficult; few of us get through it at first, 
without some rubs and losses, — which the world are al- 
ways ready enough to forgive, where they are honestly 
confessed, and diligently repaired. It would, indeed, be 
a piteous case, if a young man were pinioned down 
through life to the first nonsense he happens to write or 
talk ; and the world are, to do them justice, sufficiently 
ready to release them from such obligation : but what 
they do not forgive is, that juvenile enthusiasm and error, 
which ends in mature profligacy ; which begins with 
mistaking what is right, and ends with denying that 
there is any thing right at all ; which leaps from partial 
confidence to universal skepticism ; w r hich says, " there 


is no such thing as true religion and rational liberty, be- 
cause I have been a furious zealot, or a seditious dema- 
gogue." Such men should be taught that wickedness is 
never an atonement for mistake ; and they should be 
held out as a lesson to the young, that unless they are 
content to form their opinions modestly, they will too 
often be induced to abandon them entirely. 

There is something extremely fascinating in quick- 
ness ; and most men are desirous of appearing quick. 
The great rule for becoming so, is, by not attempting to 
appear quicker than you really are ; by resolving to 
understand yourself and others, and to know what you 
mean, and what they mean, before you speak or answer. 
Every man must submit to be slow before he is quick ; 
and insignificant before he is important. The too early 
struggle against the pain of obscurity, corrupts no small 
share of understandings. Well and happily has that 
man conducted his understanding, who has learned to 
derive from the exercise of it, regular occupation and 
rational delight ; who, after having overcome the first 
pain of application, and acquired a habit of looking in- 
wardly upon his own mind, perceives that every day is 
multiplying the relations, confirming the accuracy, and 
augmenting the number of his ideas ; who feels that he 
is rising in the scale of intellectual beings, gathering new 
strength with every new difficulty which he subdues, and 
enjoying to-day as his pleasure, that which yesterday 
he labored at as his toil. There are many consolations 
in the mind of such a man, which no common life can 
ever afford ; and many enjoyments which it has not to 
give! It is not the mere cry of moralists, and the flourish 
of rhetoricians ; but it is noble to seek truth, and it is beau- 
tiful to find it. It is the ancient feeling of the human 
heart, — that knowledge is better than riches ; and it is 
deeply and sacredly true ! To mark the course of hu- 
man passions as they have flowed on in the ages that 
are past ; to see why nations have risen, and why they 
have fallen ; to speak of heat, and light, and winds ; to 
know what man has discovered in the heavens above, 
and in the earth beneath ; to hear the chemist unfold 
the marvelous properties that the Creator has locked up 


in a speck of earth ; to be told that there are worlds so 
distant from our sun, that the quickness of light travel- 
ing from the world's creation, has never yet reached us; 
to wander in the creations of poetry, and grow warm 
again, with that eloquence which swayed the democracies 
of the old world ; to go up with great reasoners to the 
First Cause of all, and to perceive in the midst of all this 
dissolution and decay, and cruel separation, that there is 
one thing unchangeable, indestructible, and everlasting ; 
— it is worth while in the days of our youth to strive 
hard for this great discipline ; to pass sleepless nights 
for it, to give up to it laborious days ; to spurn for it 
present pleasures ; to endure for it afflicting poverty ; to 
wade for it through darkness, and sorrow, and contempt, 
as the great spirits of the world have done in all ages 
and all times. 

I appeal to the experience of any man who is in 
the habit of exercising his mind vigorously and well, 
whether there is not a satisfaction in it, which tells him 
he has been acting up to one of the great objects of his 
existence ? The end of nature has been answered : his 
faculties have done that, which they were created to do, 
— not languidly occupied upon trifles, — not enervated 
by sensual gratification, but exercised in that toil which 
is so congenial to their nature, and so worthy of their 
strength. A life of knowledge is not often a life of 
injury and crime. Whom does such a man oppress ? 
with whose happiness does he interfere ? whom does his 
ambition destroy, and whom does his fraud deceive ? 
In the pursuit of science he injures no man, and in the 
acquisition he does good to all. A man who dedicates 
his life to knowledge, becomes habituated to pleasure 
which carries with it no reproach : and there is one 
security that he will never love that pleasure which is 
paid for by anguish of heart, — his pleasures are all cheap, 
all dignified, and all innocent ; and, as far as any human 
being can expect permanence in this changing scene, he 
has secured a happiness which no malignity of fortune 
can ever take away, but which must cleave to him while 
he lives, — ameliorating every good, and diminishing 
every evil, of his existence. With these reflections, 


therefore, upon the conduct of the understanding, I close 
my Lectures, and with them the Institution, for the 
present year : but, before I do so, I wish to say a few 
words respecting this latter subject. Another institution 
has now risen up in the eastern part of this metropolis ; 
and there appears to be a very strong desire to do all 
that can be done for the increase of public institutions, 
by the foundation of libraries, and by lectures given to 
persons of both sexes. I allow myself to be no very 
impartial judge in such questions ; but still I must take 
the liberty of expressing my astonishment, that sensible 
and reflecting men should seriously call in question the 
value and importance of such sort of establishments. If 
a man come here with his mind thoroughly stored, and 
his habits completely formed, and complain that he 
learns little or nothing ; his complaint may be very true, 
but it applies to all other places of education, as well as 
to this. Such a man has got beyond what the aid of 
others can do for him ; and must depend upon himself. 
Then, again, it is asked what are the great and mighty 
effects upon the manners of the age, that such institutions 
are to produce ? Great and mighty effects, none ; but 
gradual and gentle effects, effects worth producing, 
sufficient to justify the expense and trouble bestowed 
upon institutions. It is, surely, not unfair to suppose 
that, of the numbers resorting to this Institution, some 
have felt a zeal for science, which they might not other- 
wise have felt ; that this zeal may, in some instances, 
have furnished rational amusement to a whole life ; in 
others, be productive of deep knowledge, and important 
discovery. Is it nothing to inflame young minds ? is it 
nothing to please them with science, and to convey to 
them the first suspicion, that exquisite pleasure is to be 
derived from the mere occupations of the mind ? Is it 
nothing to get science generally talked of, though it 
may not be profoundly discussed ; and knowledge widely 
honored, though it may not be greedily pursued ? I 
can not consider that man as a very attentive observer 
of human nature, who does not believe, that by all the 
conversation and occupation which this Institution has 
occasioned, much talent has been awakened, much 


curiosity for knowledge excited, the dominion of perilous 
idleness abridged, and the sum of laudable exertions 
increased. It is the greatest of all mistakes, to do 
nothing because you can only do little : but there are 
men who are always clamoring for immediate and 
stupendous effects, and think that virtue and knowledge 
are to be increased as a tower or a temple are to be in- 
creased, where the growth of its magnitude can be 
measured from day to day, and you can not approach it 
without perceiving a fresh pillar, or admiring an added 
pinnacle. " But, then, such institutions increase the 
number of smatterers." To be sure they do ! And is it 
not one of the most desirable of all things that they 
should be increased ? If you plant 50,000 oaks in five 
acres, have you not a better chance of fine trees than 
when you only plant 10,000 in one acre ? Has the pro- 
duction of eggs ever yet been considered as unfavorable 
to the growth of chickens ? or has any reasoner yet 
contended, that in any country where boys and girls are 
very numerous, men and women must be very scarce ? 
Every one, in every art and science, is of course, at first, 
nothing but a smatterer. Of these, some can not ad- 
vance from stupidity, others will not advance from idle- 
ness ; some get in the wrong road from error, some quit 
the right from affectation ; a few only reach the destined 
point, — but, of course, the number of these last will be 
directly and immediately in the proportion of those who 
started for the race. In short, I have no manner of 
doubt, if these institutions conduct themselves with as 
much judgment as they have hitherto done, — if they 
provide able and upright men to read lectures in this 
place ; and if those men do, without countenancing any 
narrow and illiberal opinions, and without lending them- 
selves to childish jealousies and groundless alarms, 
display at all times an honest zeal for sound knowledge, 
rational freedom, and manly piety, — I see no reason why 
this Institution may not prosper, and be considered as a 
valuable addition to the public establishments of this 
country. That such may be its fate, is my most sincere 
desire/and ardent prayer : and with these wishes for its 


prosperity, and with my hearty thanks to this elegant 
and accomplished audience, for the attention with 
which I have been heard, I conclude my Lectures; 
wishing to you all, every possible happiness till we 
meet again. 







I have had the pleasure of reading here two sets of 
Lectures, — the one upon the Understanding, the other 
upon Taste. I come now to the consideration of the 
Active Powers of the Mind, or those principles of our 
nature which impel us to action. The distinction 
between the intellectual and the active powers, or the 
understanding and the will, is one of very great antiquity; 
far anterior, I fancy, to the time of Aristotle : and it 
appears to be one of the most convenient divisions, for 
arranging the complicated powers of the human mind. 

The two popular terms which express this division 
are head and heart ; it being very natural that men, in 
their speculations concerning the connection of body and 
mind, should suppose that particular parts of the mind 
were more particularly associated with particular parts 
of the body. I need scarcely say that the notion is 
quite fanciful ; — that it would be quite as philosophical 
to say of an able man that he had a good liver, or to 
praise a virtuous man for the soundness of his lungs, 
as it would be to speak of the head of the one, or the 
heart of the other. I mention this bodily distinction, not 
from any idea of the justice of the hypothesis it involves, 
but merely to show that the common notions of man- 
kind have always gone along with this distinction of the 
powers of the mind, into those which are intellectual and 
those which are active. 


This science of mental philosophy has often been 
represented as vague and unsatisfactory. It certainly 
is not capable of that precision which many others are ; 
but its most skeptical enemies would not pretend to 
confound an idea with a feeling. Nobody would pre- 
tend to say that the mind is affected in the same manner 
by hard, soft, green, or blue, as it is by anger, shame, 
hatred, and love. Every one feels the necessity of 
dividing the two classes, and naturally conceives that 
they are subjected to very different laws. It is not im- 
possible, perhaps, that we might possess every intel- 
lectual faculty we now have, without feeling the influence 
of one single appetite, desire, or affection. Constituted 
as we now are, there are moments in our existence, when 
the soul of passion seems to be entirely laid to sleep, and 
when outward objects are noticed by the understanding 
without producing the slightest determination of the 
will : and there are opposite states of tempest and con- 
vulsion, when the passions confound the understanding 
in all its operations, and make it a false and faithless 
observer of the world without. In old age, in melan- 
choly, and in sickness, the mind appears to be diseased, 
from the decay of all its active powers. In madness 
they all exist in excess. The great variety in human 
character, — that astonishing difference between us, which 
leaves one man in the little field where he was born, and 
drives another out to command armies and senates, — 
this difference principally depends upon the different de- 
grees of curiosity and imitation in each, upon the empire 
which fear and anger exercise over them ; upon how 
they love, and how they hate ; upon the nature and de- 
gree of all those active powers, which go to make up 
the constitution of their minds. 

The active principles of our nature are divided by 
Mr. Stewart and Dr. Reid into appetites, desires, affec- 
tions, self-love, and the moral faculty. They call those 
feelings appetites which take their rise from the body, 
— such as hunger and thirst, which operate periodically 
after certain intervals, and cease only for a time, upon 
the attainment of a particular object. They mean by 
desires, those feelings which do not take their rise from 


the body ; which do not operate periodically, and do not 
cease upon the attainment of a particular object. The 
most remarkable active principles belonging to this class, 
they consider to be the desire of knowledge, or curiosity, 
the desire of society, the desire of power, and the desire 
of superiority, or the principle of emulation. Under 
the title of affections, they comprehend all those active 
principles whose direct and ultimate object is the com- 
munication of joy or pain to our fellow-creatures. Ac- 
cording to this definition, resentment, revenge, hatred, 
belong to the class of our affections, as well as gratitude 
or pity. When I explain what they mean by self-love, 
and the moral faculty, I must do it at full length. This 
division of the active powers I shall in general adopt, 
and propose to begin with the affections. 

The popular word for affections in their highest degree, 
is passion ; and the objection to using it, is, that it only 
means the excess of the feeling : for instance, we could 
not say that a man experienced the passion of anger 
who felt a calm indignation at a serious injury he had 
received ; we should only think ourselves justifiable in 
applying the term passion if he were transported be- 
yond all bounds if his reason were almost vanquished, 
and if the bodily signs of that passion were visible in 
his appearance. However, if I should hereafter use the 
common term passion, instead of the more accurate term 
affection, I beg to be understood to mean any degree of 
a feeling, however great or small. Emotion will be found 
to mean a short and transient fit of passion : however, I 
shall use it synonymously with the words passion and 
affection ; or, if I do not, I shall say so. 

It must be allowed, I suppose, that, in strictness, noth- 
ing can be meant by the passion, but the mere feeling of 
mind. I am under the influence of violent rage from 
some sudden and serious injury which I have experi- 
enced ; but the quick respiration, the red cheek, the 
frowning eyebrow, and the fixed eye, are not the affection 
of anger, — they are only the signs which that affection 
of anger produces on my body. In the same manner, I 
have a distinct impression of the person who has injured 
me; he appears almost to be standing before me: I 


know also that I have been assassinated in reputation, or 
ruined in fortune : but all these ideas are not the pas- 
sion of anger : they are the causes of that passion, but 
not the passion itself. Again, I have the strongest desire 
to inflict an exemplary punishment upon the person 
who has done me this injury : — this is the affection or 
passion of resentment ; the consequence of anger, but by 
no means anger itself. 

In the same manner, a child loves its mother. The 
mother is the cause, which excites the affection of love 
in the mind of the child. The affection may possibly 
excite the child to do all the good in his power to his 
mother ; — these are its consequences ; the affection it- 
self is distinct from either : therefore, in speaking of 
passions and affections, it should be remembered we are 
merely speaking of certain feelings of the mind, which 
it is impossible to define. You may state the causes of 
such feelings, and their consequences ; but it is as impos- 
sible to define them, as it is to define sour, sweet, and 
savory. Men call the particular feeling annexed to 
shame, by one name ; the particular feeling annexed to 
anger, by another. They are only believed to be the 
same in different individuals, because they proceed from 
the same causes, and produce the same effects. It ap- 
pears to me of some consequence to remember this ; 
and to separate, in all discussions upon these very diffi- 
cult subjects, the pure affection of mind, from what 
gives it birth, and from what it induces men to do when 
it is produced. 

The first question which arises in the consideration of 
human passions, is their origin. Concerning what pas- 
sions we do actually possess, there can be no dispute ; 
but the question is, respecting their origin. With how 
many passions and desires are we born ? is there any 
such original principle in our nature as a desire of power, 
a desire of society, a desire of esteem ; or, are all these 
feelings, — whose existence in the mature man no one 
doubts, — capable of being resolved into any more simple 
principles ? The same with the passions : are men born 
with the original capacity of feeling gratitude for good, 
and resentment for evil ? or can it be shown what the 


history of these feelings is ; can their origin be traced, 
and their progress be clearly shown ? The former 
opinions are entertained at present by the school of Reid, 
in Scotland ; were taught by Hutcheson ; and were, I 
fancy, the commonly received opinions on the subject 
before the time of Hartley. The disciples of this school 
may differ a little in their enumeration of the original 
active principles of our nature, — but they all agree that 
they are numerous ; that no account can be given of their 
origin ; that they are there, because such is the constitu- 
tion of our nature ; that it is an ultimate fact, and can not 
be reasoned upon. For instance, Dr. Reid would say, that 
" the passion of resentment is an original passion, im- 
planted by Providence in the breast of all men for the 
purposes of self-preservation." Dr. Hartley would say, 
" the passion is there, and Providence intended it for 
self-preservation ; but it was not placed originally in the 
human mind : provision, and very wise and very curious 
provision, is made, that it should uniformly spring up 
there ; but it is not an original, inexplicable impulse. 
I can show you the period when it does not exist ; I can 
explain to you by what means it is generated ; I can 
trace it throughout all its gradations, up to the perfect 
life and entire development of the passion." This is 
about the state of the question between Reid and Hart- 
ley, respecting the origin of the active powers. I shall 
now give some short account of the progress and nature 
of Dr. Hartley's opinions. 

Every body here present knows what is meant by the 
association of ideas. When two ideas have, by any ac- 
cident, been joined together frequently in the understand- 
ing, the one idea has, ever after, the strongest tendency 
to bring back the other: for instance, the celebrated 
Descartes w r as very much in love with a lady who 
squinted ; he had so associated that passion with obliqui- 
ty of vision, that he declares, to the latest hour of his 
life he could never see a lady with a cast in her eye, 
without experiencing the most lively emotions. In the 
same manner, to take the most trite of all instances, the 
ideas of spirits and of darkness, are so strongly united 
together in our infancy, that, it becomes an exceedingly 


difficult thing to separate them in mature age. There 
is no reason upon earth, why twelve o'clock in the mid- 
dle of the day, or why dinner-time, should not be the 
proper season for ghosts, instead of the middle of the 
night. It has pleased anility to make another arrange- 
ment ; and now, as I have said before, the two ideas of 
darkness and supernatural agency are so firmly united 
together, that it is frequently almost impossible to sep- 
arate them. This is what is meant by the principle 
of association : and this principle was, I believe, first 
noticed by Locke ; but he had recourse to it only to ex- 
plain those sympathies and antipathies which he calls un- 
natural, in distinction from those which he says are born 
with us ; and nothing can be more imperfect than his 
notions concerning the nature, cause, and effects, of the 

Afterward, Mr. Gay, a clergyman in the West of 
England, endeavored to show the possibility of deducing 
all our passions and affections from association, in a dis- 
sertation prefixed to Bishop Law's translation of King's 
" Origin of Evil :" but he supposed the love of happiness 
to be an original and implanted principle ; and that the 
passions and affections were deducible only from sup- 
posing sensible and rational creatures dependent upon 
each other for their happiness. It was upon hearing of 
Mr. Gay's opinion, that Dr. Hartley turned his thonghts 
upon the subject ; and at length, after giving the closest 
attention to it, in a course of several years, it appeared 
to him very probable, not only that all our intellectual 
pleasures and pains, but that all the phenomena of mem- 
ory, imagination, volition, reasoning, and every other 
mental affection and operation, are only different modes 
or cases of the associations of ideas ; so that nothing is 
necessary to make any man whatever he is, than a ca- 
pacity of feeling pleasure and pain, and the principle of 
association. These are the simple rudiments and begin- 
nings of our nature ; these are the fountains of sorrow 
and of joy ; from hence come all the passions which 
gladden, and all which embitter life. Hence come 

" The radiant smiles of Joy, the applauding hand 
Of Admiration ; hence the bitter shower 


That sorrow sheds upon a brother's grave ; 
Hence the dumb palsy of nocturnal Fear, 
And those consuming tires that gnaw the heart 
Of panting Indignation." 

Such is the celebrated theory of Dr. Hartley ; in which 
I have totally passed over his doctrine of vibrations, be- 
cause, as every body knows, it is very foolish, and no 
way connected with the valuable part of his system. 

I shall now give two or three specimens of the man- 
ner in which the various active powers are traced up to 
simple pleasure and pain, guided by association ; and I 
will begin with one of the passions, — the passion of fear. 
Ask any one, whence comes the passion of fear ? and he 
will tell you it is an original passion of our nature : at 
the same time it is evident to observation, that a child is 
wholly unacquainted with fear till he has received some 
hurt. If fear were coeval with birth ; or a capacity of 
being afraid, implanted in us independently of all experi- 
ence, a child of four months old would be afraid of the 
flame of a candle, the first moment he saw it, — he would 
shrink from a viper, and be frightened into fits at the 
sight of a loaded pistol. Try a child of that age with a 
lighted candle ; he is so far from having any notion of 
fear, that his first effort is to grasp it : when he has been 
once burned, and suffered pain, the passion of fear — which 
is nothing more, in its early state, than the expectation 
of pain — is immediately formed. Put the candle to him 
again : he has now associated two ideas, — the light of 
the flame, and the pain of his body ; the appearance of 
the flame, therefore, immediately gives him the notion 
that he is going to suffer, — and this feeling is what we 
call fear. In the same manner, a child learns to be afraid 
of sharp weapons, of animals that bite and scratch, and 
of all the common objects of juvenile terror ; and, per- 
ceiving into how many inconveniences he is betrayed 
by his ignorance, falls into a general apprehension of all 
striking and unknown objects, because he can not ap- 
preciate the degree of mischief to be expected from them. 
This, I confess, appears to me a plain and true history of 
the passion of fear. If it were an original passion, the 
sight of a dagger would as immediately produce fear in 


a young child, as the touch of ice would produce cold in 
him : but before he can experience this passion, it is 
necessary he should suffer pain ; and it is necessary that 
the object which has inflicted the pain should again be 
presented to him, in order to recall the feeling which has 
been associated to it. 

I observe, what those persons stand out for the most, 
who are the most conversant with children, is the fear 
of falling which they express, even though they have 
never fallen. But does it not seem rather capricious and 
singular, that, among all the innumerable perils by which 
children are surrounded, the fear of falling should be the 
only one against which they have any instinctive warn- 
ing ? A child will eat poison if it be sweet ; set himself 
on fire, play with gunpowder, swallow needles, run into 
any kind of mischief, from which he has suffered no 
previous pain ; and amid these ten thousand avenues to 
destruction, we believe that the only one he is warned 
not to approach, is that which would break his arm or 
his leg, or give him a great blow on the head. So that 
the child may be burned, poisoned, stabbed, cut, mangled, 
or any thing else, provided he is not bruised. But what 
is the meaning of a child being afraid instinctively ? If 
he is afraid of an object, he must, I suppose, have an idea 
of that object. Is he, then, born with the ideas of fire, 
of boiling water, of sharp-pointed weapons, of medical 
gentlemen, and all other objects which can do him 
harm ; — or, if Locke has driven us out of these anti- 
quated notions, shall we suppose, that he has no previous 
acquaintance with them ; but that when they are per- 
ceived for the first time, the passion of fear immediately 
takes place ? Is a child, then, startled by a brass blun- 
derbuss the first time he sees it ? " But this is not a 
natural object :" true ; but is he, then, startled by arse- 
nic, any more than with powdered sugar ? To what do 
these instinctive terrors extend ? It appears to me, I 
confess, quite impossible to make common sense of any 
supposition but that of Hartley, which says, that pain is 
the teacher of fear. Before pain there is no fear ; and 
when that passion exists, however great the distance, 


and however circuitous the course, there is the fountain- 
head from which it sprang. 

I will now consider two of the most important princi- 
ples of our nature, — the desire of doing harm to others, 
and the desire of doing good ; — resentment and benevo- 
lence. It will be curious to observe how far they fall 
into this doctrine of association. A young child, soon 
after his birth, has not the least desire to do good or 
harm to any one ; he has no such passions : and it is our 
business to explain how he gets them. The food he eats 
or drinks gives him pleasure ; but observing, in process 
of time, that the nurse is always present when he re- 
ceives his food, the sight of the nurse gives him pleasure, 
because it reminds him of his food ; yet in process of 
time the idea of the food is obliterated, and the sight of 
the nurse gives him pleasure, and, without the interve- 
ning idea that she is useful to him, he loves her immedi- 
ately after his appetite of hunger is satisfied, as well as 
before : his passion for her, which first proceeded from 
an interested motive, becomes quite disinterested ; and 
he loves her without the slightest reference to the ad- 
vantages she procures him. This is the origin of his 
love for his nurse : and then, as all kindred ideas are 
very easily associated together, he proceeds from loving 
her to desiring her good ; for, perceiving that other peo- 
ple like what he likes, it is very natural, that the idea of 
his own gratification in eating, should suggest the idea 
of the nurse's gratification ; and that he should offer her 
a little morsel of his apple or his cake, or any puerile 
luxury which he happens to be enjoying. The associa- 
tion is easy to be comprehended, and seems perfectly 
natural. Besides, a child begins very early to associate 
his own advantage with benevolence. Cake, and com- 
mendation, the parent of cake, are lavished upon the 
child who shows a disposition to please others. Cuffs, 
and frowns, and hard words, are the portion of a selfish 
and a malevolent child : he begins with loving benevo- 
lence for the advantage it affords him, and ends with 
loving it for itself: he is not born with love of any thing, 
but merely with the capacity of feeling pleasure ; which 
he first feels for the milk, then for the mother, because 


she gives him the milk, then for her own sake : then, as 
she makes him happy, association gives him the idea of 
making her happy ; and he gains so much by benevo- 
lence, that he loves it first for the advantages it affords, 
then for itself. Reverse all this, and you will have the' 
history and progress of the malevolent passions. A 
young child hates nobody. If you were to pinch or 
scratch him, he would feel pain ; if you did it often, he 
would associate the idea of you with the idea of pain, 
and would hate you, first, on account of the ideas you 
suggested, then hate you plainly and simply without any 
cause. After he had learned by observation, that you 
were similarly constituted with himself, he would be led 
to associate your painful feelings with his own ; and thus 
a foundation of malevolence toward you would be laid. 
Again : a child is deterred from doing any thing by 
threats and by pain ; and he perceives that other per- 
sons are deterred by similar means ; he therefore asso- 
ciates these ideas with prevention ; threatens and beats 
whoever contradicts him ; and cherishes resentment as 
a means of gratifying his will, and effecting whatever 
object he has in view. It is quite impossible that a child 
can be born with any feeling of resentment. He can 
never tell that the way to prevent another child from 
beating him, is to beat that child again ; it would be an 
enormous thing that he who does not yet know black 
from scarlet, should be acquainted with the dominion 
which pain has over the mind, and make use of it to ac- 
complish his purposes ; and yet, such is the opinion that 
they adopt, who consider this passion as innate, and coe- 
val with our existence. 

I have said that the child first associates with his 
mother the idea of food, and loves her in consequence 
of this association ; then loves her from disinterested 
motives, without any association at all : and I have said 
that he hates his tormentor, first, from associating pain- 
ful ideas with his appearance ; and then hates him with- 
out any association at all. This leads me to the men- 
tion of a very general, and very important law of asso- 
ciation : and that is this ; — the medium idea by which 
two others are associated, is always at length destroyed, 


and the two others coalesce, and make the association : 
for instance, whatever we love for its uses, we love for 
itself. A man begins to love his horse because he car- 
ries him well out hunting : he ends with loving the 
horse without the slightest reference to his utility ; and 
keeps him when he is blind and lame, with as much at- 
tention as in the vigor of his youth. Here, the middle 
term (if I may use the expression), which united together 
the two ideas of horse and affection, was utility : that 
middle term was effaced ; and the affection remains 
for the horse, when all notion of utility is completely at 
an end. The middle term here is like a cramp or a 
screw put upon two pieces of wood, just glued together, 
— it serves to keep them together at first, but can be re- 
moved with perfect safety, when the cement is solid, and 
the union complete. 

I remember once seeing an advertisement in the pa- 
pers, with which I was much struck ; and which I will 
take the liberty of reading : — " Lost, in the Temple Cof- 
fee House, and supposed to be taken away by mistake, 
an oaken stick, which has supported its master not only 
over the greatest part of Europe, but has been his com- 
panion in his journeys over the inhospitable deserts of 
Africa ; whoever will restore it to the waiter, will confer 
a very serious obligation on the advertiser ; or, if that be 
any object, shall receive a recompense very much above 
the value of the article restored." Now, here is a man 
who buys a sixpenny stick, because it is useful ; and 
totally forgetting the trifling causes which first made his 
stick of any consequence, speaks of it with warmth and 
affection ; calls it his companion ; and would hardly 
have changed it, perhaps, for the gold stick which is car- 
ried before the king. But the best and strongest exam- 
ple of this, and of the customary progress of association, 
is in the passion of avarice. A child only loves a guinea 
because it shines ; and, as it is equally splendid, he loves 
a gilt button as well. In after-life, he begins to love 
wealth, because it affords him the comforts of existence; 
and then loves it so well, that he denies himself the com- 
mon comforts of life to increase it. The uniting idea is 
so totally forgotten, that it is completely sacrificed to the 


ideas which it unites. Two friends unite against the 
person to whose introduction they are indebted for their 
knowledge of each other ; exclude him their society, and 
ruin him by their combination. 

I might, upon the same principle, proceed to explain 
a vast variety of passions and desires, which are all 
commonly spoken of as original principles of our nature. 
For instance : nothing appears to me more decided and 
indisputable, than that men are not born with any love 
of power, any love of society, or any love of esteem ; all 
these feelings, — which we all experience so strongly, — 
have all sprung from pleasure, pain, and association ; 
and are entirely explicable upon that system. But, if I 
were to go through with them, I should merely be tread- 
ing over the same ground I have passed already : the prin- 
ciple once understood, there is no great difficulty in 
making the application to particular cases. 

I beg leave again to observe, — and I request the par- 
ticular attention of my hearers to it, — that the only dif- 
ference between the friends of this doctrine of associa- 
tion, and their antagonists, is, respecting the origin of 
all these feelings and passions. Respecting their exist- 
ence, there is none. Every one agrees that there is a 
love of parents, a love of country, a desire of esteem, 
and a desire of knowledge : the only question is, respect- 
ing their origin. Are they primitive ? Can no account 
be given of their causes ? or from what are they de- 
rived ? They say, in tracing up a river to its source, 
we find it bursting out from innumerable streams. We 
say, this is very true ; but you stop short too soon, you 
don't look far enough ; we can show you your numerous 
fountains distinctly terminating in one, — the plain, an- 
cient, and undoubted source of the stream. The admi- 
rable simplicity of this doctrine ought certainly to rec- 
ommend it to universal attention ; as, independent of 
other considerations, it wears the face of that simplicity 
in causes, and variety in effects, which we discover in 
every other part of nature. 

" In human works, though labor'd on with pain, 
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain : 


In God's, one single can its end produce ; 
Yet serves to second, too, some other use." 

IN or let any man imagine that the power and goodness 
of Providence is diminished in the estimation of man, by 
that philosophy which teaches that we come into the 
world void of all passions, and acquire them by these 
simple means. Is it wiser and greater to move every 
planet by a fresh power, or to guide them all in their 
spheres by the simple principle of gravity ? Did Newton 
degrade our notions of Providence when he discovered 
one great law presiding over heaven and earth ? Did 
Locke diminish our admiration of the human mind, and 
of Him who made it, when he showed us how all its 
infinite variety of ideas grow out of mere sensation and 
reflection ? To show us that a variety of movements in 
a machine all proceed from one and the same original 
power, is to show us that that machine has been con- 
ceived clearly and grandly ; for imbecility, and want of 
resources, are shown by calling in a vast variety of 
powers to produce one plain effect. But opulence of 
thought, and immensity of mind, are shown by producing 
an infinite variety of effects, from one simple cause. 
Providence did not originally implant in men a love of 
esteem, or a love of knowledge ; but Providence im- 
planted that capacity of feeling pleasure and pain, and 
that facility of association, which as infallibly produce 
the love of esteem and knowledge, as if they had been 
original feelings of the mind. 

But what says Dr. Reid and his school ? — That Prov- 
idence, which moves all the heavenly bodies by one 
simple cause ; — that Providence, which darts the blood 
of man through a million vessels by the contraction of 
one single organ ; — that Providence, always so simple 
and so grand, is in the fabrication of the mind, alone 
complicated and confused, arranging without order, and 
planning without art. What was the first command ? 
Not " let there be colors ?" not " let the herb be green, 
and the heavens be blue :" but, " let there be light !" 
and forthwith there was every variety of color! So 
with us ; the first mandate was not, "let man be affected 


with anger and gratitude," but " let man feel ;" and then, 
matter let loose upon him, with all its malignities, and 
all its pleasures, roused up in him his good and his bad 
passions, and made him as he is, — the best and the worst 
of created beings. 

I have heard it said, as an objection against this theory, 
that there is a neatness in it, an arrondissement, which 
gives it a great appearance of quackery and imposture. 
This is very likely ; but I am not contending that the 
theory looks as if it were true, but merely that it is true. 
At the same time, there is a great deal of merit in the 
observation ; for discoveries in general, especially upon 
such very intricate subjects, are more ragged, uneven, 
and incomplete ; there is here a little light, and there a 
great deal of darkness ; in one place you make a great 
inroad, and then you are stopped by impenetrable bar- 
riers : but here is one master-key which opens every 
bolt and barrier; a philosophy which explains every 
thing, and leaves the whole subject at rest forever. All 
these are certainly presumptive evidences against the 
theory ; but if it perform all that it promise, those pre- 
sumptive evidences are, of course, honorably repelled. 

I beg leave, however, before I conclude this lecture, 
to repeat again and again, that I by no means undertake 
to burthen myself with the whole of Dr. Hartley's theory. 
The vibrations, every one laughs at. The doctrines of 
necessity, which he has chosen to add on to it, I have 
nothing to do with : the subject is improper for this 
place ; and the whole question, rightly considered, more 
a question of words, than of any thing else. 

The great principle of Hartley, which I am exclusively 
endeavoring to maintain, is this, — that all the passions 
are derived from pleasure and pain, guided by associa- 
tion. For that opinion I am responsible, and for no 
other. I now take leave of it with saying, that, in my 
very confined and inconsiderable attention to such sort 
of subjects, I have felt a security and a satisfaction in 
this system, which I never did in any other : every day 
convinces me more and more, that it is a discovery of 
vast importance ; fresh facts arrange themselves under 
it ; it solves new difficulties ; and as it remains longer 


in the mind, it increases in durability and improves in 

" Love, Hope, and Joy, — fair Pleasure's smiling train ; 
Hate, Fear, and Grief, — the family of Pain : 
These, mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd, 
Make and maintain the pleasures of the mind ; 
The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife 
Gives all its strength and color to our life." 




There have been almost as many different arrange- 
ments of the passions, as there have been writers who 
have treated on the subject. Some writers have placed 
them in centrast to each other, as Hope and Fear, Joy 
and Sorrow. Some have considered them as they are 
personal, relative, or social ; some according to their influ- 
ence at different periods of life ; others, as they relate to 
past, present, or future time. The academicians ad- 
vanced, that the principal passions were Fear, Hope, 
Joy, and Grief. They included Aversion and Despair 
under the passion of Grief; Hope, Fortitude, and Anger 
under Desire. Dr. Hartley has arranged the passions 
under five grateful and five ungrateful ones : the grateful 
ones are, Love, Desire, Hope, Joy, and Pleasing Recol- 
lection ; the ungrateful ones, Hatred, Aversion, Fear, 
Grief, and Displeasing Recollection. Dr. Watts and 
Mr. Grove have both followed different arrangements, 
which I will not detain you by stating : whoever is de- 
sirous of seeing them at length, may consult Dr. Cogan's 
book on the Passions, who has also proposed and followed 
an arrangement of his own. 

Conceiving that we are born merely with a capacity of 
feeling pleasure and pain, and that from this capacity, 
directed by association, all the affections of our nature 
spring, it appears to me that the plainest and most nat- 
ural arrangement will be, to divide the affections accord- 


ing to their origin, as they are derived from the one or 
the other of these great principles of our nature, and as 
they belong to the family of pleasure or of pain. 

I shall begin with those affections of the mind which 
are formed by painful associations ; premising, that I by 
no means intend to pursue this subject as far as it would 
lead me, or to enter into very minute and accurate dis- 
tinctions, because such an analysis would be excessively 
tedious, and would better become a professed treatise 
on the passions, than a course of Lectures on Moral 

All ungrateful passions are the sensation of evil : but 
it may be evil long passed (for the remembrance of which 
we have no name) ; or it may be present evil, either of 
body or mind, and from different causes, as pain, grief, 
and fear; or it may be the apprehension of evil to come, 
which is fear. From the sensations of evil, comes the 
desire of inflicting it, or malevolence. Hence anger, 
jealousy, malice, envy, and all the train of bad passions, 
which are all compounded of the same principles, — dis- 
pleasure, and a desire of displeasing ; or, in more com- 
mon words, hatred and revenge. So that all the vices 
of our nature come from remembering evil, feeling it, an- 
ticipating it, and inflicting it (the consequence of these 
three preceding states). 

The difference between grief and pain is, that we 
apply the expression of grief to those uneasy sensations 
which have not the body for their immediate cause ; 
pain, to those which have. The loss of reputation oc- 
casions grief; the loss of a limb, pain. 

Grief is that uneasy state of mind which proceeds from 
the loss of some good, or the presence of some evil. A 
singular circumstance respecting grief, is, that there is 
not always, in the suffering person, a very ready dispo- 
sition to get rid of his sorrow : he clings to the remem- 
brance of it ; gathers round about him every thing which 
can recall the idea of what he has lost ; and appears to 
derive his principal consolation from those trains of ideas 
which an indifferent person would consider as best cal- 
culated to exasperate his affliction. The reason of this, 
I take to be, that it is pleasant to be pitied, pleasant even 



to think how we should be pitied, if the world were well 
acquainted with all the minute circumstances of our 
l 0SSj — w ith all the fine ties and endearments which bound 
us to the object of our affections. We are fond of rep- 
resenting ourselves to our own fancies as objects of the 
most profound and universal sympathy. Death never 
took away such a father, such a husband, or such a son ; 
we dwell upon our misfortunes, and magnify them, till 
we derive a sort of consolation from reflecting on that 
exquisite pity to which we are entitled, and which we 
should receive if the whole extent of our calamity were 
as well known to others as to ourselves. We dwell 
upon our affliction, however, not merely from the sym- 
pathy to which it appears to entitle us, but because in 
that train of ideas there are many that give an immedi- 
ate relief of pleasure, which, though purchased dearly 
by the subsequent pain to which they expose us, are 
still resorted to for that immediate pleasure. For in- 
stance, a man reduced to sudden poverty, may take some 
pleasure in thinking a moment on the luxuries which he 
has been accustomed to enjoy : he pays dearly enough for 
such reflections, when he is forced to perceive what his 
present state is ; but still the train of thought has been 
pleasant for the moment, — it has given him some im- 
mediate relief, and therefore he has indulged it. "Grief/' 
says Constance,— 

" Grief fills the room up of my absent child, 
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me ; 
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, 
Remembers me of all his gracious parts, 
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form." 

These two causes appear to me to explain the singular 
phenomenon, that sorrow should ever be pleasant, and 
justify the usual poetical expression of the luxury of 

Grief, it should be observed, seems to be a general 
term for all sensations of evil, when that sensation has 
not a specific name. 

That sensation of evil which proceeds from the loss of 
esteem, has a specific name ; it is called shame. Most 


of the other sensations of evil, — as that which proceeds 
from the loss of friends, or the loss of fortune, or from 
frustrated ambition, — pass under the common and in- 
clusive name of grief; though there is no reason that I 
know of, why that uneasiness which proceeds from the 
loss of power, should not have a specific name as well 
as that which proceeds from the loss of esteem. 

Grief produces resentment or not, according as it is 
accompanied with the notion of its being occasioned by 
a voluntary and rational agent. For instance, a young 
boy walks under an old, ruinous building ; a stone falls 
on his head, and he is killed : in this case you feel no- 
thing but pure affliction : — but you learn immediately 
after, that some wicked and malicious person has pushed 
down this stone upon the child's head, and killed him : 
here grief is immediately followed by resentment ; and 
you are actuated by the strongest and most irresistible 
motives to do all possible harm to the murderer of your 
son. So that resentment is always preceded by uneasy 
sensations of the body, that we call pain ; or of the mind, 
which we call grief; though grief and pain do not al- 
ways produce resentment. It will be curious to investi- 
gate the origin and progress of this difference, and to 
decide how it is, that precisely the same degree of grief 
does sometimes produce violent resentment, sometimes 

As I stated in the last Lecture, it is quite impossible 
to suppose that a child is born with all those compound 
notions which enter into the word resentment ; for, ob- 
serve all the knowledge which this implies : first, you 
suppose the child of a month old, or a day old, to know 
that my hand guided the pin with which I pricked him ; 
next, that I can guide my hand where I please ; next, 
that I feel pain as he does, and that he has a right to 
inflict the same pain as I have inflicted upon him. 
There is not the slightest evidence that the child has 
any one of all these ideas ; and I would just as soon be- 
lieve that a child just born could say the three first books 
of Ariosto by heart, as that he is born with any such 
wisdom. He learns by experience, that other human 
creatures feel pleasure and pain as well as himself; that 


they are allured by pleasure to do him good, and by pain 
intimidated from doing him harm. Hence the origin of 
his benevolence and his resentment ; of his desire to do 
harm, or to do good, to his fellow-creatures. A young 
child of seven or eight months old, if you take him away 
from any object that attracts his attention, will cry, ex- 
press great grief, and all that agitation of body, and im- 
patience of mind, which is frequently occasioned by 
grief ; but there is not the slightest appearance of resent- 
ment. It never appears to occur to a child of that age, 
that you are the cause of this privation ; that you can 
feel pain, and that therefore he will inflict it. It is long 
after this period, that he acquires this very compound 
idea ; and he acquires it, as he acquires the power of 
knowing black from white, and tall from short, — by 

It may appear very extraordinary that there should 
be such a prodigious tendency in after-life to connect 
grief with resentment, when they were not originally 
connected together by nature. But I think the doctrine 
of acquired perceptions, must convince any man how 
much the work of association is like an original impres- 
sion of nature ; and how impossible it is to distinguish 
the laminae put together by association, from those 
which were originally solid and continuous. Besides, 
too, all similar passions naturally generate each other, as 
we shall see hereafter ; and there is a very strong 
resemblance in the effects of grief, pain, and resentment ; 
and, having once been joined together, the one has the 
strongest possible disposition to produce the other. I 
am not speaking of the highest-refined London grief, — 
the grief of civilization and softness ; but the grief of a 
savage and a child. The grief of nature in its first stage 
is a violent, impatient, irritating passion, very much 
resembling anger. The natural effect of grief and pain 
is, to cry out as loud as possible, and to kick and sprawl 
in all possible directions ; and I believe, if people would 
do so much more than they do, they would be all the 
better for it. The sitting on monuments smiling, and 
the green and yellow melancholy, is quite a subsequent 
business, entirely the result of education. 


Having acquired the feeling of resentment, the child 
is, of course, very unlearned at first in the application 
of it ; he has not yet learned what objects have life and 
feeling, what not ; and at the age of two years, when 
thrown into a violent rage, it is not impossible but that 
he will beat the chair upon which he has knocked his 
head, or the table that has thrown him down, as vehe- 
mently as if they were capable of suffering from his 
malevolence. In a very little time he learns the folly of 
this ; distinguishes between objects that feel, and objects 
that do not ; and is more learned and skillful in directing 
the effusions of his wrath. After he has learned to 
direct his resentment only against objects that have life 
and feeling, education limits the confines of his resent- 
ment still more, by infusing in his mind the idea of 
justice ; by instructing him that he must not resent 
unless the injury has been done intentionally, — unless he 
who has been guilty of it, has done it without any fair 
and lawful pretext ; and that after all, where it can not 
be forgiven with propriety, it must be punished with 
moderation. So that education teaches us at last to 
support a large class of griefs without gratifying the 
propensity to resentment ; and confines the gratification 
of that passion to where the injury has been inflicted by 
a rational being, intentionally and unjustly. There still 
exists, however, through life, the strongest disposition to 
connect together grief, pain, and resentment ; and it 
requires the strongest and steadiest appeal to the princi- 
ples of justice to keep it down. We often kick a stock 
or a stone, over which we have stumbled, from the mere 
habit we have acquired of associating resentment with 
pain. We feel a sort of resentment against the person 
who brings us bad news. Zinzis Khan cut off the head 
of one of his favorites for venturing to inform him of a 
partial defeat his troops had sustained. The raising up 
of the passion of resentment, causes an immediate diver- 
sion of the passion of grief; and therefore, the feeling of 
resentment in cases of grief, seems to be sought after, in 
some badly constituted minds, as a sort of relief. Sup- 
pose any person were to purchase a piece of painted 
glass for three or four hundred pounds ; it is discovered 


to have fallen down, and is broken to pieces ; — the dis- 
position of resentment to follow displeasure is so great, 
that I am afraid it would be some relief to find that this 
had been knocked down by a careless servant ; and that 
the master would not be very well pleased with his 
servant, who could give him such an account of the 
business as precluded the master from all possibility of 
scolding. A child is rarely deformed, or rarely dies, by 
the hand of nature ; but, according to the parent, the 
nurse has mismanaged it, or the physician destroyed it 
by his ignorance. Men in violent pain are excessively 
irascible, very strongly disposed to quarrel and find 
fault. A gamester, who has lost a thousand pounds, 
comes home, and relieves his uneasiness by quarreling 
with his wife and children, and abusing his servants. 
All these are instances of the strong disposition of man- 
kind to associate together grief and resentment ; in these 
instances, the disposition is so strongly evinced that it 
entirely overpowers all sense of justice. 

Contempt is that painful emotion which a human 
being excites in you, by his degrading qualities or con- 
duct. Contempt only diminishes resentment, in those 
injuries which depend upon the character of the person 
who inflicts them. A libel may be written by a man so 
infamous, that all the severe things he has said are 
rendered harmless by the name which is subscribed to 
them ; here, my resentment is less, because the grief I 
feel, is so much less, from having been traduced by such 
a man : but if the same man were to set my house on 
fire, or assault me with a large stick, the general con- 
temptibility of his character would certainly have very 
little effect in diminishing my resentment. Contempt 
diminishes resentment by diminishing danger — the cause 
of resentment. 

Peevishment is resentment, excited by trifles. Envy 
is resentment, excited by superiority, — not by all su- 
periority, but by that to which you think you are fairly 
entitled : for a plowman does not envy a king ; but he 
envies another plowman who has a shilling a week 
more than he has. Malice is pure malevolence; a desire 
to inflict injury without a cause; an abstract love of 


doing mischief; — at least, so it is commonly said to be : 
but there can hardly be any such passion ; it must be a 
desire of doing mischief for some very slight and foolish 
cause. I don't like the cut of a man's coat, or the make 
of his face ; or, he talks too quick, or too slow, or some 
other such absurd and childish reason, — which makes 
me his enemy, and inclines me to do him harm. 

Sulkiness, is anger half subdued by fear. Jealousy, is 
another modification of anger ; — the causes of which, I 
believe, there is no occasion I should explain. Cruelty, 
is rather a habit than a passion: it will easily appear, 
however, that it is the genuine and necessary offspring 
of anger, often indulged and gratified. It is most apt 
to arise in proud, selfish, and timorous persons, who con- 
ceive highly of their own merits, and of the consequent 
inj ustice of all offenses committed against them ; and 
who have an exquisite feeling and apprehension in 
respect of private gratification and uneasiness. Mon- 
tesquieu has made this remark : he says, that all persons 
accustomed to the implicit gratification of the will, are 
very apt to be cruel. 

Fear, is the apprehension of future evil. Habit dimin- 
ishes fear, when it raises up contrary associations ; and 
increases it, when it confirms the first associations. A 
soldier, who has often escaped, begins to disunite the 
two ideas of dying and fighting ; he connects also with 
fighting, a sense of duty, and a love of glory. Habit, I 
should think, would increase the sensation of fear, in a 
person who had undergone two or three painful opera- 
tions, and was about to submit to another. A man 
works in a gunpowder-mill every day of his life, with the 
utmost sang froid, which you would not be very much 
pleased to enter for half an hour : you have associated 
with the manufactory, nothing but the accidents you 
have heard it is exposed to ; he has associated with it, 
the numberless days he has passed there in perfect securi- 
ty. For the same reason, a sailor-boy stands unconcerned 
upon the mast ; a mason upon a ladder ; and a miner 
descends by his single rope. Their associations are 
altered by experience ; therefore, in estimating the degree 
in which human creatures are under the influence of this 


passion, we must always remember their previous habits. 
A woman conceives, early in life, such dreadful notions 
of war, and all the instruments of war, that no degree of 
maternal tenderness, probably, would induce her to take 
a sword and pistol, and go and fight ; but in the time of 
a public plague, she would despise her own life, nurse 
her sick husband, or her children, and expose herself to 
death, as boldly as any grenadier. In the late attack 
upon Egypt, our soldiers behaved with the most distin- 
guished courage ; but a physician did what, I suppose, 
no soldier in the whole army would have dared to have 
done ; — he slept for three nights in the sheets of a 
patient who had died of the plague ! If the question had 
been to encounter noisy, riotous death, he probably 
could not have done it ; but where pus and miasma 
were concerned, he appears to have been a perfect hero. 
Fear, is the most contagious of all the passions ; and the 
reason is obvious enough why it becomes so : it is much 
more likely that the cause of* your fear should concern 
me, more than the cause of any other of your passions. 
If I see you very angry, it is not probable, unless we 
happen to be intimately connected, that the cause of 
your anger would prove to be a cause of mine ; but if I 
see you dreadfully frightened, it immediately occurs to 
me, that I am implicated in the same cause of fear : — you 
have discovered that the play-house in which we are 
both sitting, is on fire ; you have seen an enraged bull, 
running in the streets : I am not easy for an instant, till 
I have discovered the cause of your terror, and satisfied 
myself, that it does not concern us both. 

The passion of fear, in its ordinary state, is a vibration 
of the mind, between the expectation of good, and the 
expectation of evil; in which contest, however, the ex- 
pectation of evil preponderates. The moment all hope 
is banished, and nothing remains but despair (the ex- 
pectation of certain evil), the passion assumes a new 
form ; — very often that of the most furious resentment. 
A rat is a very timid animal, with respect to men ; but 
get a rat into a corner, where all possibility of escape is 
precluded, and a rat will fly at you like a tiger. The in- 
stances are innumerable of the heroic exploits performed 


by small bodies of troops, whose fears, despair has con- 
verted into resentment. In cases where there is no room 
for resentment, — as in shipwreck, — despair produces va- 
rious species of insanity, stupor, and delirium, while the 
sailors are only afraid ; that is, while there is a mixture 
of two passions, they work, and do all they can for their 
safety. The moment there is no more hope, — so impos- 
sible is it for the ordinary mass of human beings to look 
steadily at great and certain evil, that many jump over- 
board and drown themselves ; some are quite stupefied ; 
others completely raving mad. 

A great propensity to fear is, I should imagine, capa- 
ble of some degree of cure. The living with brave men, 
would certainly go a great way to diminish this passion 
of fear ; — as all our qualities of mind, whether good or 
bad, are highly contagious. To put ourselves in situa- 
tions where we must act before many witnesses, operates 
as a check upon fear, by raising up contrary passions, 
of the dread of shame. It very often happens, in cases 
of danger, that some one present, is more under the in- 
fluence of this passion than ourselves, and that this ex- 
ample, instead of increasing our fear, produces the con- 
trary effect, — of diminishing it : we become ashamed of 
our companion's weakness ; then of our own. Vanity 
induces us, also, to make a display of our superiority ; 
and, by this effort, the fear is diminished. Fear is re- 
peatedly overcome by affection, and compassion. A 
mother would run away from a dog, if her child was not 
with her ; but she faces him very boldly when her fears 
are excited for another. A sudden cry of distress will 
induce a man, very often, to do what no regard for his 
own safety could possibly impel him to perform. 

Suspicion, clearly belongs to the family of fear : it is 
that passion applied to the motives and intentions of hu- 
man creatures. For instance, we should not call a man 
suspicious who was extremely careful of his health ; and 
who was always believing, when he walked out, that it 
was going to thunder, or rain ; but we should call that 
person suspicious, who believed that every person with 
whom he lived, was laying plots to defraud and deceive 
him. Fear, is certainly a strong predisposing cause to 



suspicion. It is highly probable that a suspicious man 
is naturally a timid man ; though the converse is not 
equally probable, — that a timid person should be sus- 
picious. Women are timid, but not suspicious ; — much 
the contrary. 

The particular kind of grief we feel for the loss of 
reputation, is called shame ; the aversion occasioned by 
which feeling, — the desire to escape it, — is, perhaps, the 
most powerful of all the passions. The most curious 
offspring of shame, is shyness ; — a word always used, I 
fancy, in a bad sense, to signify misplaced shame ; for a 
person who felt only diffident, exactly in proportion as 
he ought, would never be called shy. But a shy person 
feels more shame, than it is graceful, or proper, he should 
feel ; generally, either from ignorance or pride. A 
young man, in making his first entrance into society, is 
so ignorant as to imagine he is the object of universal 
attention ; and that every thing he does is subject to the 
most rigid criticism. Of course, under such a supposi- 
tion, he is shy and embarrassed : he regains his ease, as 
he becomes aware of his insignificance. An excessive 
jealousy of reputation, is the very frequent parent of 
shyness, and makes us all afraid of saying and doing, 
what w r e might say and do, with the utmost propriety 
and grace. We are afraid of hazarding any thing ; and 
the game stands still, because no man will venture any 
stake : whereas, the object of living together, is not se- 
curity only, but enjoyment. Both objects are promoted 
by a moderate dread of shame ; both destroyed by that 
passion, when it amounts to shyness ; — for a shy person 
not only feels pain, and gives pain ; but, what is worse, 
he incurs blame, for a want of that rational and manly 
confidence, which is so useful to those who possess it, 
and so pleasant to those who witness it. I am severe 
against shyness, because it looks like a virtue without 
being sl virtue ; and because it gives us false notions of 
what the real virtue is. I admit that it is sometimes an 
affair of body, rather than of mind ; that where a person 
wishes to say what he knows will be received with favor, 
he can not command himself enough to do it. But this 
is merely the effect of habit, where the cause that 


created the habit has for a moment ceased. When the 
feelings respecting shame are disciplined by good sense, 
and commerce with the world, to a fair medium, the 
body will soon learn to obey the decisions of the under- 

Nor let any young man imagine (however it may flat- 
ter the vanity of those who perceive it), that there can 
be any thing worthy of a man, in faltering, and tripping, 
and stammering, and looking like a fool, and acting like 
a clown. A silly college pedant believes that this high- 
est of all the virtues, consists in the shame of the body ; 
in losing the ease and possession of a gentleman ; in turn- 
ing red ; and tumbling down ; in saying this thing, when 
you mean that ; in overturning every body within your 
reach, out of pure bashfulness ; and in a general stupid- 
ity and ungainliness, and confusion of limb, and thought, 
and motion. But that dread of shame, which virtue and 
wisdom teach, is, to act so, from the cradle to the tomb, 
that no man can cast upon you the shadow of reproach ; 
not to swerve on this side for wealth, or on that side for 
favor ; but to go on speaking truly, and acting justly : 
no man's oppressor, and no man's sycophant and slave. 
This is the shame of the soul ; and these are the blushes 
of the inward man ; which are worth all the distortions 
of the body, and all the crimson of the face. 

I come now to the pain of inactivity, or ennui. All 
young animals have a great pleasure in motion ; and 
when they have moved for a long time, they have a great 
pleasure in remaining at rest. In the one feeling, na- 
ture secures the activity of animals, and distinguishes 
them from the vegetable and the mineral kingdom ; by 
the other, prevents that activity from destroying them. 
When the mind entertains no desire nor aversion strong 
enough to induce us to act, either with the body, or by 
thinking, we are ennuied, and in a state bordering upon 
the greatest misery. The solitary imprisonment recom- 
mended by Howard, has, I fancy, been given up, from 
its having driven several persons to insanity. The ab- 
sence of desire and aversion, or which includes them 
both, motive, destroyed their reason. A man much 
given to speculation might have supported himself, per- 


haps, in such a situation ; or a mind fertile in inventing 
occupations ; but it is such a strain upon human nature, 
that none but its choicest and strongest materials can 
support it. Baron Trenck, in his dreadful imprisonment, 
took to engraving pewter pots, which, I believe, was his 
sole occupation before he began to contrive his escape. 
Count Saxe, in his solitary cell, formed a strict friend- 
ship with a large spider, provided it with flies and gnats, 
and every dainty that was on the wing ; and had so far 
familiarized the creature to him, that it would crawl 
upon his hand with the most perfect security, and come 
out of its hiding-place upon a noise which the count was 
accustomed to make. It is added, that the jailer, when 
he perceived the amusement which the count derived 
from the spider, killed it ! 

Count Rumford availed himself, in a very ingenious 
manner, of the pain of ennui. He compelled all the 
new-comers in his school to sit quite idle, and do nothing. 
The misery they felt from remaining entirely without 
occupation, operated as the strongest stimulus in them, 
to desire work ; and they received his permission to la- 
bor in the manufactory, as a liberation from the most 
painful feelings they had ever experienced. "I have 
already mentioned," says the Count, " that those chil- 
dren who were too young to work, were placed upon 
seats, built round the hall, where other children worked. 
This was done in order to inspire them with a desire to 
do that, which other children, apparently more favored, 
more caressed, and more praised than themselves, were 
permitted to do ; and of which, they were obliged to be 
idle spectators : and this had the desired effect. As 
nothing is so tedious to a child as being obliged to sit 
still in the same place for a considerable time; and as 
the work which the other more favored children were 
engaged in was light and easy, and appeared rather 
amusing than otherwise (being the spinning of hemp 
and flax, with small light wheels, turned with the foot), 
these children who were obliged to be spectators of this 
busy and entertaining scene, became so very uneasy in 
their situations, and so jealous of those who were per- 
mitted to be more active, that they frequently solicited, 


with the greatest importunity, to be allowed to work ; 
and often cried most heartily, if this favor was not in- 
stantly granted them. How sweet these tears were to 
me, can easily be imagined ; and I always found that the 
joy they showed upon being permitted to descend from 
their benches, and mix with the working children below, 
was equal to the solicitude with which they had de- 
manded that favor." 

It is remarkable, when the body requires rest, the 
mind is very easily amused : after severe toil in hunting, 
or war, savages will remain whole days in a state of in- 
activity. Any thing which occupies the mind agreeably, 
or disagreeably, is an antidote to ennui : severe pain is 
not compatible with it. There is a story of a very re- 
spectable tradesman, who had retired from business, and 
who confessed to a friend of his, that the happiest month 
in the year to him, was the month in which his fit of the 
gout came on. He was so totally unable to fill up his 
time, that even the occupation afforded by pain was a 
relief to him. 

There is no word in our language to signify the re- 
membrance of evil that is past, as there is to signify the 
anticipation of the evil which is to come ; no word con- 
trasted to this meaning of fear : probably because the 
recollection of pain, is not very painful, as being con- 
trasted with present ease ; and because such recollec- 
tion produces no events, and leads to nothing ; whereas, 
fear — the anticipation of evil — is a very remarkable 
passion, and immediately leads to a state of activity. 
Remorse is not the recollection of any past grief, but the 
sensation of present grief, for past faults now irreme- 

It appears, then, from this enumeration of the ungrate- 
ful passions, which lead men to act from feelings of aver- 
sion, that they are all referable to the memory of evil, 
the actual sensation, the future anticipation of it, or the 
resentment which any one of these notions is apt to ex- 
cite. The remembrance of past evils, produces melan- 
choly : the sensation of present evils, if they be referred 
to the body, pain ; if to the mind, grief. Envy, hatred, 
and malice, are all modifications of resentment, differing 


in the causes which have excited that resentment, as 
well as in the degree in which it is entertained. Shame 
is that particular species of grief, which proceeds from 
losing the esteem of our fellow-creatures ; fear, the an- 
ticipation of future evils. This is the catalogue of hu- 
man miseries and pains ; and it is plain why they have 
been added to our nature. By the miseries of the body, 
man is controlled within his proper sphere, and learns 
what manner of life it was intended he should lead : fear 
and suspicion are given to guard him from harm : re- 
sentment, to punish those who inflict it ; and by punish- 
ment, to deter them. By the pain of inactivity, we are 
driven to exertion ; — by the dread of shame, to labor for 
esteem. But all these pregnant and productive feelings 
are poured into the heart of man, not with any thing that 
has the air of human moderation, — not with a measure 
that looks like precision and adjustment, — but wildly, lav- 
ishly, and in excess. Providence only impels : it makes 
us start up from the earth, and do something ; but 
whether that something shall be good or evil, is the ar- 
duous decision which that Providence has left to us. 
You can not sit quietly till the torch is held up to your 
cottage, and the dagger to your throat : if you could, 
this scene of things would not long be what it now is. 
The solemn feeling which rises up in you at such times, 
is as much the work of God, as the splendor of the light- 
ning is His work ; but that feeling may degenerate into 
the fury of a savage, or be disciplined into the rational 
opposition of a wise and a good man. You must be af- 
fected by the distinctions of your fellow-creatures, — you 
can not help it ; but you may envy those distinctions, 
or you may emulate them. The dread of shame may 
enervate you for every manly exertion, or be the vigi- 
lant guardian of purity and innocence. In a strong 
mind, fear grows up into cautious sagacity ; grief, into 
amiable tenderness. Without the noble toil of moral 
education, the one is abject cowardice, the other eternal 
gloom ; therefore, there is the good, and there is the 
evil ! Every man's destiny is in his own hands. Na- 
ture has given us those beginnings, which are the ele- 
ments of the foulest vices, and the seeds of every sweet 


and immortal virtue : but though Nature has given you 
the liberty to choose, she has terrified you by her punish- 
ments, and lured you by her rewards, to choose aright ; 
for she has not only taken care that envy, and coward- 
ice, and melancholy, and revenge, shall carry with them 
their own curse, — but she has rewarded emulation, 
courage, patience, cheerfulness, and dignity, with that 
feeling of calm pleasure, which makes it the highest act 
of human wisdom to labor for their attainment. 







In my last Lecture, I treated on such of the active 
powers as had the evil of others for their object ; or 
were characterized by the pain which they inflicted on 
him, in whose mind they were observed. I come now 
to an opposite set of agents, — those which have the good 
of others for their object, or are characterized by the 
pleasure which they impart to that person, in whom they 
are observable. I am aware this division of the prin- 
ciples of our nature, which lead us to action, is not per- 
fectly accurate ; but it is accurate enough for that 
very general view which I propose to take of them, and 
which I believe is all that could be tolerated in a Lecture 
of this nature. 

The origin of these benevolent affections, I should 
explain exactly after the same manner as their oppo- 
site, — the malevolent feelings : the one proceed from 
pain, guided by association ; the other, from pleasure, 
guided by association. To trace them up to this orgin, 
would be merely to repeat my last Lecture over again, 
with the alteration of a single word — pleasure for pain ; 
and therefore I shall pass it over, presuming that I have 
sufficiently explained myself on that subject. 

The pleasing and benevolent affections of our nature, 
may be divided into the memory of past good ; the en- 
joyment of present good ; the anticipation of future 
good ; and benevolence, or a desire to do good to others. 


The memory of past good, and the memory of past evil, 
are both without a specific name in our language ; 
though it should seem, that they require one, as much 
as hope or fear, — to which, in point of time, they are 
contrasted. We all know that present happiness is very 
materially affected by happiness in prospect : but, per- 
haps, it is not enough urged as a motive for benev- 

Mankind are always happier for having been happy ; 
so that if you make them happy now, you make them 
happy twenty years hence by the memory of it. A 
childhood passed with a due mixture of rational indul- 
gence, under fond and wise parents, diffuses over the 
whole of life, a feeling of calm pleasure ; and, in extreme 
old age, is the very last remembrance which time can 
erase from the mind of man. No enjoyment, however 
inconsiderable, is confined to the present moment. A 
man is the happier for life, from having made once an 
agreeable tour, or lived for any length of time with 
pleasant people, or enjoyed any considerable interval of 
innocent pleasure : and it is most probably the recollec- 
tion of their past pleasures, which contributes to render 
old men so inattentive to the scenes before them ; and 
carries them back to a world that is past, and to scenes 
never to be renewed again. 

The recollection of pleasures that are past, is tinged 
with a certain degree of melancholy. — as every survey 
we take of distant periods of time always is. This gives 
it its peculiar characteristic, and distinguishes it from 
the animated sensations of present enjoyment : but still, 
such recollections is always one of the favorite occupa- 
tions of the human mind ; and, to many dispositions, the 
most fruitful source of happiness. 

In the passion of fear there is always a mixed ex- 
pectation of good and evil ; but the evil preponderates. 
When all expectation of good ceases, the feeling which 
takes place is that of despair. In hope, the expectation 
of good preponderates. But there is no name for that 
feeling, when all expectation of evil ceases, and the good 
appears certain ; — this is the opposite of despair. Upon 
this tendency to look forward to future happiness, or 


back upon happiness past, is founded a very obvious 
distinction in human character : — contemplative men, of 
a poetical cast, who are always looking with a kind of 
fond enthusiasm upon the past, and contrasting it with 
the prospect which lies open before them ; and bustling 
active men of the world, whose face is always turned 
the way they are going, — in whose mind the memory 
of the past has very little share, but who look keenly 
forward in the game of life, with all the eagerness of the 
most sanguine hope. For my part, I must confess my- 
self rather an admirer of the active school, and no great 
friend to that pleasant but disqualifying melancholy, 
which makes a man believe he has extracted all the 
pleasure and enjoyment from human life, before he has 
passed half through it, — that no grass is green, except the 
grass where he played when he was a boy, — and that 
all the pleasures of which a man of genuine feeling and 
taste partakes, ought, like the wine he drinks, to be fif- 
teen or twenty years old. So far as the contemplation 
of the past does not go to put us out of conceit with the 
future, it is wise : when it does, it is the idleness of 
genius and feeling ; but it is idleness, and is a corruption 
which comes from those imperfect moralists, the poets, 
who are ever disposed to chant mankind out of the 
vigorous cheerfulness of hope, and to infuse, in its stead, 
a feeling of past happiness ; which, however calm and 
beautiful it may appear, is injurious when it softens and 
unstrings the mind, and renders it useless for the 
struggles of life. 

The different degrees of present enjoyment are signi- 
fied by a vast variety of expressions ; from complacency 
and satisfaction, to the most exalted rapture. The 
general term for the desire to do good to others, is — 
benevolence. The most common causes of benevolence 
are love, gratitude, and compassion : these are very 
ancient subjects, and it is not very easy to say any thing 
new upon them ; but there is another source of benevo- 
lence, which is not so commonly adverted to, nor so 
frequently discussed, — I mean the benevolence excited 
by power, and by wealth ; not proceeding from any idea 
of profiting by the power or wealth of others, but a dis- 


interested, impartial admiration of power and wealth, 
and a high degree of benevolence excited toward the 
rich, the great, and the fortunate. The operations of 
envy are very limited ; we merely envy those immedi- 
ately above us, — whose advantages might possibly have 
been ours : but the splendor placed entirely out of our 
reach, we admire with the fondest enthusiasm. 

" When," says Adam Smith, " we consider the con- 
dition of the great, in those delusive colors in which the 
imagination is apt to paint it, it seems to be almost the 
abstract idea of a perfect and happy state. It is the very 
state which, in all our waking dreams, and idle reveries, 
we had sketched out to ourselves, as the final object of 
all our desires. We feel, therefore, a peculiar sympathy 
with the satisfaction of those that are in it : we favor all 
their inclinations, and forward all their wishes. What 
pity, we think, that any thing should spoil and corrupt 
so agreeable a situation ! We could even wish them 
immortal : and it seems hard to us, that death should, at 
last, put an end to such perfect enjoyment. It is cruel, 
we think, in Nature to compel them, from their exalted 
station, to that humble, but hospitable home which she 
has provided for all her children. Great King, live for- 
ever! is the compliment, which, after the manner of 
Eastern adulation, we should readily make them, if ex- 
perience did not teach us its absurdity. Every calamity 
that befalls them, every injury that is done them, excites 
in the breast of the spectator, ten times more compassion 
and resentment than he would have felt, had the same 
things happened to other men. It is the misfortunes of 
kings only, which afford the proper subject for tragedy. 
They resemble, in this respect, the misfortunes of lovers. 
Those two situations are the chief that interest us upon 
the theater ; because, in spite of all that reason and ex- 
perience can tell us to the contrary, the prejudices of 
the imagination attach to these two states, a happiness 
superior to any other. To disturb, or put an end to, 
such perfect enjoyment, seems to be the most atrocious 
of all injuries." 

Every man's experience, I should think, must have 
furnished him with sufficient examples of this kind of 


feeling ; — of the examples of men who have nothing to 
wish, or to want ; who are utterly incapable of forming 
a base or ungenerous sentiment ; but who, with the most 
honest and disinterested views, are quite enslaved by the 
admiration of greatness. Their benefits can extend to a 
few ; but their fortunes interest almost every body. We 
are eager to assist them in completing a system of hap- 
piness, that approaches so near to perfection ; and we 
desire to serve them, for their own sake, without any 
recompense, but the honor or the vanity of obliging them. 

Upon this disposition, however, to go along with the 
passions of the rich and powerful, is founded the dis- 
tinction of ranks, and the order of society. Watched 
over, and kept within due bounds, it is a sentiment which 
leads to the most valuable and important consequences. 
But I hope I shall be pardoned for observing, it is a ter- 
rible corrupter of moral sentiments, when it destroys 
that feeling of modest independence, which is quite as 
necessary to the real welfare of society, as a wise sub- 
ordination, and difference of rank. 

As every thing which excites pain, is apt to excite re- 
sentment, so, every thing which excites pleasure, is apt 
to excite benevolence. A good countenance, or a good 
figure, always conciliates a considerable degree of favor ; 
— certainly, very unjustly ; because, no man makes his 
own figure, or his own face ; and the distresses of others, 
or their merits, are the only legitimate objects of benevo- 
lence. The messenger of good news, is always an object 
of benevolence. Every one knows, that an officer who 
brings home the news of a victory, receives a donation 
in money, and is commonly knighted, or promoted. 
Strictly speaking, it would be just as equitable to mulct 
him of half a year's pay, for bringing home the news of 
a defeat, as it would be to present him with £500, for 
bringing home the news of a victory : but, if they be not 
too great, all men sympathize with the excesses of the 
generous and benevolent passions ; while they restrain 
the malevolent principles within the most rigid bounds 
of justice. That the messenger of disastrous news should 
be punished, would appear to the impartial spectator, the 
most horrible injustice ; but no one envies his reward to 


him who brings good intelligence, though no one pre- 
tends to say that he has deserved it. A thousand in- 
stances may be observed, where the tendency of pleasure 
to excite benevolence, gets the better of justice ; but, 
because it is an excess of the right side, it is less noticed, 
and less blamed. A witty, agreeable man, with a good 
address, may be guilty, I am afraid, of innumerable faults, 
which a dull and awkward offender would never be able 
to get over. The question always is, "what he is to 
us;" not, what he is, in his general relations to society. 
If he succeed in giving pleasure, he is almost certain of 
exciting benevolence. For this reason it is, that the 
little excellences so very often beat the great ; and that 
a person who has the dining and supping virtues, so often 
plays a more conspicuous part in society, than the great- 
est and most august of human beings. " Those amiable 
passions," says Adam Smith, "even when they are 
acknowledged to be excessive, are never regarded with 
aversion. There is something agreeable, even in the 
weakness of friendship and humanity. The too tender 
mother and the too indulgent father, the too generous 
and affectionate friend, may sometimes, perhaps, on ac- 
count of the softness of their natures, be looked upon 
with a species of pity, in which, however, there is a 
mixture of love ; but can never be regarded with hatred 
and aversion, nor even with contempt, unless by the 
most brutal and worthless of mankind. It is always 
with concern, with sympathy, and kindness, that we 
blame them for the extravagance of their attachment. 
There is a helplessness in the character of extreme 
humanity, which more than any thing interests our pity. 
There is nothing in itself, which renders it either un- 
graceful or disagreeable : we only regret that it is unfit 
for the world, because the world is unworthy of it ; and 
because it must expose the person who is endowed with 
it, as a prey to the perfidy and ingratitude of insinuating 
falsehood, and to a thousand pains and uneasinesses 
which, of all men, he the least deserves to feel ; and 
which generally, too, he is, of all men, the least capable 
of supporting. It is quite otherwise with hatred and re- 
sentment. Too violent a propensity to these detestable 


passions, renders a person the object of universal dread 
and abhorrence, who, like a wild beast, ought, we think, 
to be hunted out of all civil society." 

There is a species of benevolence, which ought to 
have an appropriate name ; because names are of im- 
mense importance in teaching virtue, and in securing it: 
A love of excellence, — a benevolence excited by all 
superiority in good, as envy is the hatred excited by 
that superiority ; — an honest and zealous admiration of 
talent, and of virtue, in whatever corner and nook of 
the world they are to be found, — an admiration which 
no disparity of situation, no spirit of party, none of the 
hateful and disuniting feelings can extinguish. In all 
ages of the world, the ablest men have been the first to 
express their admiration of excellence ; and, while they 
themselves were extending the triumphs of the human 
understanding, they have worshiped its powers in other 
minds, with veneration bordering upon idolatry. The 
best cure for envy, is, to inspire the Young, at a very 
early period of their lives, with the deepest respect for 
virtue and talent ; to kindle this feeling up into a 
passion ; to make their acknowledgment of merit a 
gratification of pride ; the homage they pay to it, an 
irresistible impulse, — like that which is felt at the 
image of sublime beauty, or the spectacle of matchless 

Respect and esteem are low degrees of benevolence, 
excited by the severer part of the social virtues ; — as, 
justice and integrity ; or, by the prudent virtues : — as, 
temperance and caution. Affection is always more per- 
manent when it happens to be mingled with respect and 
esteem ; because the absence of respect and esteem im- 
plies disapprobation, which in time might destroy benev- 
olence. A certain mixture of fear, is not unfavorable 
to affection ; it must be very small; but,. whether it be 
that we get tired with one attitude, and like to be affect- 
ed in a different manner, a sprinkling of fear or resent- 
ment, upon the sweeter passions, seems to be very well 
relished, and perhaps serves to keep them from corrupt- 
ing so soon as they otherwise would do. These are the 
principal observations which I have to offer on the benev- 


olent affections, in particular. We see by them, and 
by what I have said on the malevolent passions, that 
Nature allures us to a particular system of actions, by 
the pleasure she has annexed to them ; and deters 
us from the opposite system, by the pains of which 
it is productive. She might have punished alone ; but 
she punishes and rewards also. As it is true that 
there is a grateful flavor in ripe fruit, and an enticing 
smell to draw us toward it, it is as true, and as notori- 
ous, that there is a real pleasure in benevolence, a 
charm in compassion, in candor, and every species of 

We are guided in our physical aversion by nauseous 
and irritating tastes ; and are taught as plainly to love, 
and to forgive, by those bitter pangs which hatred and 
resentment never fail to leave behind them, when they 
are indulged without the restraints of justice. Nothing 
which it is important we should do, or should avoid, is 
left to the determination of reason alone, but the object 
is always secured by aversion or by desire. We do not 
eat or drink when reason points out to us to do so, but 
when the feelings of nature admonish us : we are urged 
by an impetuous feeling to be compassionate, to resist 
atrocious injustice, and to do every thing which it is 
necessary for the well-being of society that we should 

I shall now proceed to make some general observa- 
tions on the passions and affections, whether benevolent 
or malevolent. 

It has been supposed by some writers, that nature has 
appropriated some particular signs of the countenance, 
o-r gesticulations of the body, to denote some passions, 
and other signs for other passions : and that we are born 
with a knowledge of these signs ; that is, that, previous 
to all experience, the child knows the first smile to be 
the sign of pleasure ; and the first frown the sign of pain. 
This appears to me to be quite a preposterous notion. 
Where the acquisition of any knowledge can be explain- 
ed by the usual method of experience, it is very useless, 
as well as pernicious, to invent new first principles to 
account for it. The child sees the nurse smile when 


she is good humored, and therefore connects together 
the ideas of smiling and kindness : previous to that, there 
is no evidence that the child connects any idea with any 
particular change of the countenance. And if we can 
suppose a child to have been so educated, that while he 
was corrected, the person who punished him took care 
to smile ; and while he was praised, it was always ac- 
companied with frowns ; to such a child a frown would 
be the indication of benevolence, — and a smile, of re- 
sentment. But has nature made the signs of the 
passions steady and uniform, so that though they are not 
known at the birth, they are easily learned and remem- 
bered afterward ? The signs of some passions, certain- 
ly not. Blushing, which we call the natural sign of 
shame, certainly can not exist in a negro : besides, it is a 
sign of anger, as well as shame ; and of innocent bash- 
fulness, as well as guilty shame ; and of ill health, and 
fainting away, and a thousand other affections of mind 
and body : so that if you choose to say nature has given 
us this, as an indication to others, of what passes in our 
minds, it is an extremely dangerous and deceitful guide, 
— and as likely to put us out of the way as in it. There 
is some fallacy also in this, that whenever we see what 
we call the signs of the passions, they are accompanied 
with such a plain context, that their interpretation is 
wonderfully facilitated. The face of an angry fish- 
woman would indicate, I suppose, the signs of the 
passions ; but these signs certainly borrow something of 
their perspicuity, from the oaths which accompany them ; 
and something from the blows she might bestow on the 
object of her indignation. However, it can not be denied 
that nature has given some very general indications of 
the passions ; and the doctrine is only ridiculous, when 
pushed to such extremes as some writers have carried 
it. If the whole body be taken in, as well as the coun- 
tenance, the violent agitation of the limbs in great anger, 
and the perfect state of rest under the feeling of compla- 
cency and satisfaction, are, no doubt, phenomena which 
always follow those affections of mind : nor do I suppose 
there is any nation on the face of the earth, which ex- 
presses content as we express anger, — or, vice versa, 


anger as we do content : at least, no nation, the inhabi- 
tants of which express sudden indignation by assuming 
a more tranquil position than before ; or perfect content 
by every extravagance of gesture and motion. In these 
respects, probably, all nations are alike : but the finer 
signs may differ ; for in grief, one muscle, or set of 
muscles, contracts ; in displeasure, another. But it is 
not simply the contraction of this muscle, which is our 
sign of the passion ; but generally, the effect which this 
contraction produces upon all the other features of the 
face : for instance, the first mark of dejection is, that it 
makes the eyebrows rise toward the middle of the fore- 
head, more than toward the cheek ; but the effect of 
this, can not possibly be the same with a fine Italian face, 
and with the physiognomy of a Chinese. The general 
effect upon the countenance, produced by the contrac- 
tion of the same muscle, must be so different, that the 
smile of complacency of one race of men, may exactly 
correspond to the smile of contempt in another. There- 
fore, if nature has made such a language of looks, it is 
only vernacular in each particular country ; — it is not 
the language of the whole world. 

The doctrine of natural signs, taken thus grossly, is 
true ; carried to any greater degree of minuteness, will 
be found to involve its advocates in a thousand absurdi- 

There is a great affinity between all the good affec- 
tions ; and the same affinity between all the malevolent 
and painful ones. It is a common thing to become very 
fond of those whom we pity ; approbation, long ex- 
ercised toward any particular person, generates, at last, 
affection. So does esteem ; and still more, admiration. 
Every body is in love with great heroes. 

The pleasures of the body are favorable to all the 
benevolent virtues, — and its pains unfavorable. No 
one is so inclined to good nature, courtesy, and gene- 
rosity, when cold, wet, and dirty, as after pleasant feed- 
ing, and during genial warmth. A courtier, who had a 
favor to ask of his master, would never choose a moment 
of ear-ache, or a fit of the gout, as the happiest opportu- 
ne v of preferring his request. Count Rumford has been 


accused of being too fanciful, because he has advanced 
that there is a great connection between cleanliness and 
virtue. It is a position, certainly, very capable of being 
turned into ridicule ; but if it be seriously examined, and 
if the affinity between our feelings be properly attended 
to, there can surely be no absurdity in conceiving that 
all the filth and pains of body, and little privations, to 
which the poor are subjected, must produce an irrita- 
tion of mind, infinitely more favorable to the malevolent 
than to the good passions. 

The inference from these facts is, that one very suc- 
cessful method of making people good is to make them 
happy ; and that the most effectual preventive of punish- 
ment, and the most powerful auxiliary to moral advice, 
is to diffuse over their lives those feelings of comfort 
and ease, which have an almost mechanical influence in 
cherishing the social and benevolent virtues. 

That virtue gives happiness, we all know ; but if it be 
true, that happiness contributes to virtue, the principle 
furnishes us with some sort of excuse for the errors and 
excesses of able young men, at the bottom of life, fret- 
ting with impatience under their obscurity, and hatching 
a thousand chimeras of being neglected and overlooked 
by the world. The natural cure for these errors is, 
the sunshine of prosperity : as they get happier, they get 
better ; and learn, from the respect which they receive 
from others, to respect themselves. " Whenever," says 
Mr. Lancaster (in his book just published), " I met with 
a boy particularly mischievous, I made him a monitor : 
I never knew this fail/' The cause for the promotion, 
and the kind of encouragement it must occasion, I con- 
fess appear rather singular ; but of the effect I have no 
sort of doubt. 

In the same manner, the bad passions herd together ; 
and where one exists in any strength, the others are 
much more likely to find an easy reception. Pain, as I 
have said before, produces anger ; fear gives birth to 
cruelty ; displacency is the parent of revenge : so that 
by gaining one good habit, we have the chance of gaining 
many others similar to it ; and by contracting one bad 


one, of adding very rapidly to the stock of our imper- 

Sometimes it happens that passions, originally differ- 
ent from each other, give force to each other. When 
we would affect any one very much by a matter of fact, 
of which we intend to inform him, it is a common arti- 
fice to excite his curiosity, — delay as long as possible to 
satisfy it, — and, by that means, raise his anxiety and 
impatience to the utmost, before we give him a full in- 
sight into the business. We know this curiosity will 
precipitate him into the passion which we propose to 
raise, and assist its influence upon the mind. Hope is, 
in itself, an agreeable passion, and allied to friendship 
and benevolence ; yet it is able, sometimes, to increase 
anger, when that is the predominant passion. Nothing 
communicates more force to our emotions, than an op- 
position of contrary passions, — love and revenge ; hatred 
and admiration ; gratitude and envy. 

" Horror and doubt distract 
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir 
The hell within him ; for within him hell 
He brings, and round about him, nor from hell 
One step, no more than from himself, can fly 
By change of place : Now conscience wakes despair 
That slumber'd ; wakes the bitter memory 
Of what he was, what is, and what must be 
Worse ; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue, 
Sometimes toward Eden, which now in his view 
Lay pleasant, his griev'd look he fixed sad ; 
Sometimes toward heaven, and the full-blazing sun, 
Which now sat high in his meridian tower : 
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began." 

In all this altercation of passions, those of an opposite 
nature, instead of destroying each other, appear to com- 
municate to each other additional force ; they all add to 
the quantity of the excitement, all violate the state of 
rest, and raise the mind into a state of unnatural agita- 
tion ; and of such importance in our mental constitution 
does it seem, to overcome the state of tranquil apathy, 
and such is the proneness of all strong feelings, whether 
good or bad, that the progress from any one passion to 
another, seems to be quite as easy and natural, as the 
progress from tranquillity to passion at all. It cost 


Timotheus, I dare say, a great deal of fine playing, to 
throw the soul of Alexander into a tumult of feeling ; 
but that once accomplished, the bard harped him into 
any passion he pleased. However this be true of Tim- 
otheus and Alexander, it is certainly true of music in 
general. If we are stupid or indolent, we resist its 
powers for some time ; but when the twangings, and the 
beatings, and the breathings once reach the heart, and 
set it moving with all its streams of life, the mind bounds 
from grief to joy, from joy to grief, without effort or pang, 
but seems rather to derive its keenest pleasure from the 
quick vicissitude of passion to which it is exposed. It 
is the same with acting. It is difficult to rouse the mind 
from an ordinary state, to a dramatic state ; but that 
once done, we glide with ease from any passion, to one 
the most opposite. 

All objects of sense, — every thing that we hear and 
see, — excite the passions in an infinitely greater degree 
than the same thing conceived by the description of 
others. This was the defense always made by the Ro- 
man Catholics, for the worship of images, — that it was 
difficult to keep up any fervor of devotion by a mere 
speculative notion. It required the forcible impression 
of an object of sense, to invigorate the passion, and keep 
it alive. This is the use of colors, in the day of battle : 
when the carnage becomes very dreadful, the words duty 
and country, and every other speculative notion that 
can be gathered together, are often of very cold opera- 
tion ; — but the actual sight of their colors in danger, will 
do more in an instant, than all the stimulating ideas 
which the whole resources of language can present to 
men. An appeal is made to the passions through the 
senses, and such appeals are always the most irresistible, 
particularly with the lowest class, who have fewer ideas 
of reflection, in comparison with their ideas of sense. 

A thing, I am very sorry to say, is sometimes more 
pleasant because it is forbidden. This is because the 
love of power is excited by the prohibition ; — and any 
one excitement always increases any other excitement. 
The efforts made to surmount the obstacle, rouse the 
spirits and enliven the passions. I forget what comedy 


it is in, where a lady, who is about to be married with 
the consent of her parents, refuses to give her hand to 
the husband in the usual manner, but insists upon the 
apparatus being provided, and that she should be stolen 
away, according to the strictest etiquette of clandestine 

Uncertainty, has the same effect as opposition. The 
agitation of the thought ; the quick turn which it makes, 
from one view to another ; the variety of passions which 
succeed each other, according to the different views : all 
these produce an emotion in the mind ; and this emotion 
transfuses itself into the predominant passion. Security, 
on the contrary, diminishes the passions ; the mind, 
when left to itself, immediately languishes ; and, in order 
to preserve its ardor, must be every moment supported 
by a new flow of passion. 

Nothing more powerfully excites any affection, than 
to conceal some part of its object, by throwing it into 
shade ; which, at the same time that it shows us enough 
to prepossess us in favor of the object, leaves still some 
work for the imagination. Besides, that obscurity is al- 
ways attended with a kind of uncertainty, the effort 
which the fancy makes to complete the idea rouses the 
spirits, and gives an additional force to the passion. 

" The other shape, 
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none 
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb, — 
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd, 
For each seem'd either, — black it stood as night, 
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell, 
And shook a dreadful dart : what seem'd his head, 
The likeness of a kingly crown had on. 

The undaunted fiend what this might be admired ; 
Admired, not fear'd : God and his Son except, 
Created thing naught valued he, nor shunn'd." 

As despair and security, though contrary, produce tne 
same effects ; so, absence is observed to have contrary 
effects, and, in different circumstances, either increases 
or diminishes our affections. Rochefoucault has re- 
marked, that " absence destroys weak passions, but in- 
creases strong ; as the wind extinguishes a candle, and 


blows up a fire." Long absence naturally weakens our 
idea, and diminishes the passion ; but where the affec- 
tion is so strong and lively as to support itself, the un- 
easiness arising from absence increases the passion, and 
gives it fresh force and influence. The imagination 
and affections have together a close union ; the vivacity 
of the former, gives force to the latter : hence, the pros- 
pect of any pleasure with which we are acquainted, af- 
fects us more than any other pleasure which we may 
own to be superior, but of the nature of which we are 
wholly ignorant: of the one we can form a particular 
and determinate idea, the other we conceive under the 
general notion of pleasure. 

When we apply ourselves to the performance of any 
action, or the conception of any object, to which we are 
not accustomed, there is a certain unpliableness in the 
faculties, and a difficulty in the spirits, to move in the 
new direction ; hence, every thing that is new is most 
affecting, and gives us either more pleasure, or pain, than 
what, strictly speaking, should naturally follow from it. 
When it often returns upon us, the novelty wears off; 
the passion subsides, the hurry of the spirits is over, and 
we survey the object with tranquillity and ease. 

Any satisfaction we have recently enjoyed, and of 
which the memory is fresh and perfect, operates on the 
will with more violence than another, of which the traces 
are decayed and obliterated. Contiguity in time and 
place, has an amazing effect upon the passions. An 
enormous globe of fire, which fell at Pekin, would not 
excite half the interest which the most trifling phenom- 
enon could give birth to nearer home. I am persuaded 
many men might be picked out of the streets, who, for 
1000 guineas paid down, would consent to submit to a 
very cruel death, in fifteen years from the time of receiv- 
ing the money. This, for the main, is a wise provision 
of nature ; for the progress of life, generally speaking, 
and the order of the world, depend upon an attention to 
present objects : but this, like every other moral pro- 
vision, is given without any limit or adjustment ; and it 
becomes the great object of wisdom and of virtue to re- 
strain it within proper limits. By all that we can look 


upon an object of sense, and (admitting its capacity of 
affording present pleasure) steadily reckon up its influ- 
ence upon future happiness ; by all that, are we ad- 
vanced in power of thought, and rectitude of action. 
The great labor is, to subdue the tyranny of present im- 
pression ; to hold down desire and aversion, with a firm 
grasp, till we have time to see where they would drive 
us. The men who can do this, are the men who do all 
the praiseworthy actions that are done in the world ; — 
who write lasting books, make treaties, lead armies, and 
govern kingdoms ; or, if their life be private, live pleas- 
antly and safely. Those men, on the contrary, who can 
acquire no knowledge, enjoy no praise, and feel no peace- 
ful happiness, seem only to have lived to destroy the 
moral order of the world, and dishonor the works of God. 







The powerful part which the passions were intended 
to act in our constitution, is clearly evinced by those 
rapid and dreadful effects which they frequently commit 
upon the body. Instances are very numerous of persons 
who have been driven mad by joy, — who have dropped 
down dead from anger or grief. Great numbers of people 
die every year, pining away from deranged circum- 
stances, or from disgrace, or disappointed affection, in a 
state which we call broken-hearted. The passions kill 
like acute diseases, and like chronic ones too. Every 
physician who knows any thing of the science, has seen 
innumerable cases of all the disorders of the body, origi- 
nating from disturbed emotion, and totally inaccessible 
to all the remedies by which mere animal infirmities 
are removed. Dr. Gregory, of Edinburgh, in his " Lec- 
tures on the Practice of Medicine," mentions so singular 
an instance of the effects of joy, that, but for such highly 
respectable authority, I should hardly think it credible. 
He was sent for in the course of his medical practice, to 
a family in the country, consisting of a mother and two 
daughters. They had recently come to a very large, 
and a very sudden accession of fortune. Upon his arri- 
val at the house, he was met by the eldest daughter, 
who, with a great appearance of agitation, cautioned 


him against her mother and sister ; and informed him 
they were both mad. He very soon perceived that this 
lady was so herself; and upon visiting the other two, 
perceived they were not a jot better. The truth turned 
out to be, that their astonishment and joy was so great, 
upon being raised from poverty to extreme opulence, — 
they had so many plans of equipage ; and so many dis- 
putes whether they should go to Bath before they went 
to London, or London before they visited Bath, — that 
the small share of reason they ever could have possessed, 
fell a sacrifice to the agitation. Independent of the 
mere magnitude of the passion, a distinct effect is pro- 
duced by the suddenness of it; or rather, perhaps, it 
would be clearer to say, that all the passions are consid- 
erably increased by surprise, and diminished by expec- 
tation. To be thoroughly informed of the nature and 
extent of any danger, to which we are about to be ex- 
posed, — to have leisure to summon up resolution, and 
invent resources, — diminishes very materially the feel- 
ing of that danger : a sudden exposure to it, might com- 
pletely overset the mind. In the same manner with 
grief. A long struggle with death, and a finely-gradu- 
ated decay, familiarize us to the loss of our friends : the 
countenance which grows paler day by day, and the 
form which every hour emaciates, inure us so to the pang 
of separation, that we meet with calm resignation a mis- 
fortune, which, suddenly communicated, would bear 
down all authority of reason, and leave, perhaps, the 
mind itself a mere ruin beneath its pressure. In this re- 
spect, there is a great analogy between body and mind. 
It is not difficult, by gradations, to accustom the body 
to any thing ; while it receives the most violent injuries 
from changes that are sudden. This dread of sudden 
vicissitude, admits of no explanation ; it is one of the 
means by which the powers of man are limited, and he 
is controlled within the sphere in which he at present 
moves. It is curious to observe the very little time 
necessary to the mind for its changes ; and how short a 
preparation obviates the worst and most dangerous ef- 
fects of the passions. To come into a room suddenly, 
and say such a person is dead, might very likely kill the 


person to whom it was addressed : but " he is not quite 
so well as could be wished ; there is some little danger ; 
he was getting worse," and so on ; — by the presentation 
of a mournful idea, which the mind can bear, and by the 
gradual increase of it up to the point which you wish to 
establish, though you can never prevent the feelings 
of nature, you blunt them, and deter their excesses from 
acting so tremendously upon the infirmities of the body. 
Any one passion may act upon the mind, when it is 
in one of these three states : — first, when it is under the 
influence of a similar passion ; next, when it is under the 
influence of an opposite passion ; next, when it is in a 
state of rest, and under the influence of no passion at 
all. For instance, I may receive such news as would 
overwhelm me with grief, and, at the moment previous 
to my receiving it, I may be in a state of joy, or sorrow, 
or in a state of indifference ; the question is, in which 
of these three states will the new passion produce its 
greatest effects ? Is the grief greater for being added to 
grief, or being contrasted to previous joy ? or from its 
falling on the mind when it was in a passionless state ? 
If the two states of grief and joy can not coexist, so that 
they neutralize each other, then the grief is always more 
intense from the contrast. If a father were to learn that 
his son had distinguished himself very much in battle, 
and were then to be told, in the midst of his joy, that 
his son had died of his wounds, the joy and the grief 
stand so opposed to each other, that the one would go 
rather to inflame, than to diminish the other. " Dead at 
the very moment that I expected to see him return with 
the highest reputation ! in the midst of all the congratu- 
lations I was making to myself for his safety !" — these 
are the ideas with which a parent would naturally exas- 
perate his misfortune. But if the joy and the grief were 
in no wise related together, then the joyful passion would 
neutralize the sad one. To hear that my fortune was 
materially diminished, would affect me less, if I had just 
recovered my health, or had just gained a distinguished 
reputation. I should set off the good against the evil, 
and bring my mind to a kind of equilibrium of feeling 
and passion. 


Some men possess a much stronger tendency to par- 
ticular passions than to others, — and passions, like tal- 
ents, are transmitted by birth from parent to child : some 
say, acquired by early imitation ; but the analogy of 
animals rather leads us to suppose that birth influences 
the qualities of the mind, as well as the limbs and gen- 
eral figure. All the foals of an ill-tempered horse are 
very often as vicious as the sire, whom they have never 
seen. Cock-fighters are extremely attentive to the 
breed of their fowls : a valiant cock has his eggs sent 
about as presents, that they may be hatched into heroes ; 
and these heroes have certainly had no communication 
with their parents, and no opportun ity of forming their 
manners upon such models of valor. 

It is very often (not always) true, that there is a 
ruling passion which obscures or absorbs all the rest. 
In some minds, two or three of the great passions appear 
to hold a divided empire. In others, there is such a 
want of prominence in the active principles, that it is 
extremely difficult to say which governs, — which obeys. 
It is, however, an extremely important circumstance in 
the investigation of character, to ascertain what are the 
paramount motives, by which any human being is habit- 
ually impelled ; and the most complicated phenomena, 
after such a key to their interpretation is once obtained, 
become clear and comprehensible. We speak of a man's 
disposition according to the predominance of good or 
bad passions in his nature. 

There are three expressions in our language, which, 
because they refer to the kind and degree of the pas- 
sions, require some explanation in this place ; — Temper, 
Humor , and Nature. When used with adjectives of 
blame and praise, temper and humor mean nearly the 
same thing. A good-humored person, or a good-tem- 
pered person, is one in whom the intentions and actions 
of others do not easily excite bad passions, — who does 
not mistake the motives by which the rest of the world 
are actuated toward him. A good-natured person is a 
man of active benevolence ; who seeks to give pleasure 
to others in little things. Good-temper measures how a 
man is acted upon by others : good -nature measures 


how he acts for others. The presumption is, that the two 
excellences would be found uniformly conjoined to- 
gether ; that a man who was passively benevolent, 
would be actively so too : but the reverse is often the 
case in practice. There many men of inviolable temper, 
who never exert themselves to do a good-natured thing, 
from one end of the year to the other ; and many in the 
highest degree irritable, who are perpetually employed 
in little acts of good-nature. It must be observed, that 
all the three words refer only to the little vices and 
virtues. Repeated fits of peevishness, constitute ill- 
temper. Violent hatred, and deadly revenge, require 
and receive a much graver name. To do little favors 
to others, and contrive small gratifications and amuse- 
ments for them, is the province of a good-natured man. 
A more exalted and difficult benevolence immediately 
assumes a more dignified appellation, and ceases to be 
called good-nature. To bring a large twelfth-cake to a 
child, is good-nature ; to give him education, support, 
and protection, though he have no natural claim upon 
you, is compassion, and the summit of good feeling. 

Of all the affections, there are various degrees. There 
is that degree in which it is scarcely perceptible ; there 
is that calm state of the affection, where it leaves the 
reason unbiased ; and there is that last, and most 
violent degree of it, which assumes the name of passion. 
This is quite as true of the malevolent, as of the benev- 
olent affections. Resentment may be calm, or it may 
be furious. There is a silent apprehension, and a fear 
exhibiting itself in the most acute paroxysms. Now, it 
seems evident that reason, in a strict sense (meaning by 
that term the judgment of truth and falsehood), can 
never be any motive to the will, and can have no influ- 
ence, but so far as it touches some passion or affection, 
What is commonly, and in a popular sense, called reason, 
and is so much recommended in moral discourses, is 
nothing but a general and calm passion, which takes a 
comprehensive and distant view of its object, and actu- 
ates the will, without exciting any sensible emotion. A 
man, we say, is diligent from reason ; that is, from a 
calm desire of riches and fortune. A man adheres to 


justice from reason ; that is, from a calm regard to 
public good, and to a character with himself and others. 
For observe all that reason can do ; reason only enables 
us to judge of propositions. This man is miserable ; 
this man is going on in a way which will terminate in 
his complete ruin ; by a prudent set of measures, I will 
save and convert him. By your reason you prognosti- 
cate his future good ; but the motive which induces you 
to plan his extrication, has nothing to do with reason. 
H God have not planted the benevolent passions in your 
heart, you may go on reasoning and anticipating to all 
eternity, without the slightest disposition to act. All 
motives come from the passions ; all means and instru- 
ments, from reason. 

The same objects which recommend themselves to 
reason, in this sense of the word, are also the objects of 
passion when they are nearer to us ; and acquire some 
other advantage, either of external situation, or con- 
gruity to our internal temper. Evil near at hand pro- 
duces aversion, and is the object of passion ; at a great 
distance, we say it is avoided from reason. The 
common error of metaphysicians has been in ascribing 
the direction of the will entirely to one of those princi- 
ples, and supposing the other to have no influence. In 
general, we may observe that both these principles 
operate on the will ; and what we call strength of mind, 
implies the prevalence of the calm passions above the 
violent ; though we may easily observe that there is no 
person so constantly possessed of this virtue, as never on 
any occasion to yield to the solicitations of violent desire 
and affection : and from these variations of temper, 
proceed the great difficulty of deciding with regard to 
the future actions and resolutions of men, where there is 
any contrariety of motives and passions. 

Without some calm passion, — some degree of some 
species of desire, — the mind could not long endure. 
Such a state is probably the state of fatuity, or idiotism. 
A man in such a condition, would stop in the middle of 
a street, and remain there all his life. Some degree of 
passion, therefore, is not only pleasing, but necessary. 
Whenever this stimulus of passion does not exist in due 


proportion, we feel ennui : when there is a just degree 
of passion, and that passion directs us to objects easily- 
attainable, we feel contented, — for content is not the 
absence of calm passion, but the constant facility of 
gratifying it without too much difficulty, and without 
subsequent inconvenience. Not only is a state of calm 
passion pleasant, but a state of violent emotion appears 
to have its allurements. Young persons love danger for 
danger's sake. School-boys climb walls and trees be- 
cause it is agreeable to them to be afraid of tumbling ; — 
and this explains the pleasure of mischief. A school-boy 
flings a stone into a window, and, running to some 
distance, stops to enjoy the violent rage of the person 
whose window has been broken : the moderate risk he 
runs, is a very pleasant excitement to him. Nay, he 
will tie a rope across a place where he knows people are 
to pass, even where he can not wait to see them tumble : 
the mere imagination of so much terror and confusion, 
fills him with pleasant feelings, and he is convulsed with 
laughter at the very thoughts of it. 

Young men turn soldiers and sailors from the love of 
being agitated ; and for the same reason, country gentle- 
men leap over stone walls. This — and not avarice — is 
the explanation of gaming. Men who game, are, in 
general, very little addicted to avarice ; but they court 
the conflict of passions which gaming produces, and 
which guards them from the dullness and ennui to 
which they would otherwise feel themselves exposed. 
The love of emotion is the foundation of tragedy; and 
so pleasant is it to be moved, that we set off' for the ex- 
press purpose of looking excessively dismal for two hours 
and a half, interspersed with long intervals of positive 
sobbing. The taste for emotion may, however, become 
a dangerous taste ; and we should be very cautious how 
we attempt to squeeze out of human life, more ecstasy 
and paroxysm than it can well afford. It throws an air 
of insipidity over the greater part of our being, and 
lavishes on a few favored moments the joy which was 
given to season our whole existence. It is to act like 
school-boys, — to pick the plums and sweetmeats out of 
the cake, and quarrel with the insipidity of the batter; 


whereas the business is, to infuse a certain share of 
flavor throughout the whole of the mass ; and not so to 
habituate ourselves to strong impulse and extraordinary 
feeling, that the common tenor of human affairs should 
appear to us incapable of amusement, and devoid of 
interest. The only safe method of indulging this taste 
for emotion, is by seeking for its gratification, not in 
passion, but in science, and all the pleasures of the 
understanding ; by mastering some new difficulty ; by 
seeing some new field of speculation open itself before 
us ; by learning the creations, the divisions, the connec- 
tions, the designs, and contrivances of nature. If we 
seek relief from the lassitude of common thoughts and 
common things, these are the only emotions which at 
once are innocent, inexhaustible, and sublime. 

It is impossible not to suppose that there is a con- 
siderable degree of connection between the intellectual, 
and active powers ; that talents must produce a striking 
influence upon affections, and affections upon talents. 
The extremes are very easily perceived ; there is a 
degree of energy in the active powers, utterly incompati- 
ble with any exercise of the understanding at all. In 
paroxysms of rage and grief, not only the arrangement 
of ideas, but even the utterance of words, becomes quite 
impossible : and on the opposite side, it can not be 
conceived how the understanding comes to act at all ; 
how it does any thing more than merely perceive, with- 
out the influence of some desire or affection ; however 
low and however calm that degree may be. The influ- 
ence of passion upon the understanding, will, of course, 
be very different, according to the different parts of the 
understanding to which it is applied. To all efforts of 
the imagination, a certain degree of passion appears 
highly favorable ; — anger quickens wit, multiplies images 
and words, and gives a flow and a fecundity, of which 
the mind is utterly destitute in its ordinary state. Every 
man is eloquent in speaking of himself, from the direct 
influence which his passions have upon his imagination. 
The finest and most affecting parts of Cicero, are always 
about himself; every passion of his great mind, seems to 
be at work, in that noble conclusion of the second 


philippic, which afterward cost him his life. " But do 
you, Antony," he says, " look to yourself; and I will 
confess what are my principles : I have defended the 
republic when I was young, I will not desert it now I am 
old : I have despised the sword of Catiline, and the 
sword of Antony shall not alarm me. Most willingly 
would I sacrifice this body, if, by my death, the liberty 
of Rome could be established. Did not I say twenty 
years ago, in this very senate, that when a man perished 
who had reached the dignity of consul, he could not be 
said to have perished prematurely? And do you think, 
now that old age is come upon me, I will retract or deny 
this doctrine ? Conscript fathers, I wish for death ; I 
have gained all that the republic can bestow ; I have 
performed all that it can require ! Let death come 
when it will, I am prepared to meet it. I have only two 
things to implore : first, that my country may deal out to 
all her children the punishment or the reward they 
merit ; next, that when I do die, I may leave the Romans 
free. If the Gods grant me this, there is nothing else 
which they can bestow." 

No one could say of Mr. Burke, that he did not write 
with passion ; and whenever his passions are awakened, 
his imagination appears to be fecundated : he is meta- 
phorical at all times ; but when he feels strongly, every 
thing is simile, allusion, and metaphor ; and these are 
poured out, in a manner quite natural ; as if the habitual 
effect of passion in him, were, to conjure up all this 
splendid imagery, and to give unusual promptitude to 
the current of his ideas. 

But, though passion always comes in aid of a fine 
imagination, it very often happens that we meet with 
imagination without passion or feeling, — and feeling and 
passion without imagination. 

There is a beautiful passage in the book of Ruth, 
which, though full of feeling, has no imagination. "And 
Ruth said to her mother, Naomi, Entreat me not to leave 
thee : for whither thou goest, I will go ; and where thou 
lodgest, I will lodge ; thy people shall be my people, and 
thy God shall be my God : where thou diest I will die, 
and there will I be buried : the Lord do so to me. and 


more also, if aught but death part thee and me !" No- 
thing can be more beautiful, but there is no imagination 
in it. If Cowley, or any of the poets of Cowley's school, 
had had to express the same degree of affection, he would 
most probably have found several reasons why the affec- 
tion of Ruth for Naomi resembled lightning, smoke, air, 
fire, water, and clouds ; what properties it had in com- 
mon with the shooting of a meteor ; and in what way it 
might be compared both to morning and evening, and 
the middle of the day : in short, he would have displayed 
a great deal of imagination totally barren of all passion. 

To inventive reasoning, the passions are very favor- 
able. The resources which men exhibit in shipwrecks, 
and on desert islands, are perfectly astonishing. In the 
attempt to escape from prison, as much has been done 
with a rusty nail, as the best artisan could hardly have 
effected with the best tools, in any ordinary state of ex- 
citement of mind. In short, the process of invention in 
reasoning, is exactly the same as the process of invention 
in poetry. In passion, the mind dwells intensely on one 
object ; all the ideas related to it, occur from associa- 
tion ; and we seize upon the epithet, the argument, or 
the mechanical invention, which we judge the best. 
Passion aids the understanding, by multiplying the asso- 
ciations. It was precisely the same effect which passion 
produced, that aided Cicero when he attacked Antony ; 
Archimedes, when he defended Syracuse ; and Baron 
Trenck, when he broke out of prison. It may be doubted, 
whether quick and strong passions are not inimical to 
those circumspect habits of mind, w r hich are necessary 
to a good taste ; for I should conceive that, in the ac- 
quirement of a fine taste, first emotions must be very 
often checked, and the mind kept in a state of suspense, 
till the relation of each part to the whole has been ex- 
amined, and the effect of surprise properly allowed for. 

There is a state of mind, however, in which it is as 
important to keep a crowd of ideas out of the mind, as 
it is at others to excite them ; and, at such periods, the 
presence of any lively passion must be detrimental. 
When we wish to fix the attention upon one object, to 
ascertain all its properties, and the relations it bears to 


some other object, nothing can be more unfavorable to 
such habits of accurate observation, than that crowd of 
slightly related ideas, with which the passions are apt to 
people the understanding. 

With respect to the general connection between pas- 
sions and talents, no rule can be laid down, by which the 
existence of the one is with any certainty inferred from 
the existence of the other. Great passions may coexist 
with a very low state of talent ; and great talents with 
a very low state of passion. Nor does it by any means 
appear, that the cold-blooded race of men, are intended 
to act a less conspicuous part on the theater of the world, 
than those whose passions are the most acute, and the 
most irritable. The liberty of Europe, is at present 
threatened by a man of the most impetuous passions ; 
the independence of America, was established by a man 
who certainly had his passions in the most perfect com- 
mand. Alexander was a madman ; Augustus, calm 
and artful. When we compare together the retarding, 
and the impelling part of the machinery, it would be 
crude and hasty language, to give one any preference 
over the other. If there be any man, who has great pas- 
sions which he can command, and obey, according to 
circumstances, such a man must in the end be greater 
than all others of equal talents. 

The passions, I have before stated to be affected by 
every circumstance which affects the body ; as age, 
health, climate, and race : they are affected by govern- 
ment, by rank, by sex, by education, by the degree of 
refinement of the age, by solitude, by society, and by 
habit. In fact, the passions are acted upon by every 
outward and inward circumstance ; but these are the 
principal. It is very easy to conceive, that governments 
absolutely under the control of the people, and abso- 
lutely under the control of one person, must have a 
strong tendency to encourage different passions : that 
the same circumstance must be true of commercial, and 
of military nations ; that where the youth of any country 
hear nothing spoken of, at their first coming into life, 
but the acquisition of property, and perceive that every 
one increases in estimation as he advances in opulence, 


it is highly probable that the active principles by which 
he will be controlled, will be of a very different nature 
from what they would have been, if he had been nursed 
in the tumult and glory of arms. Civilization must have 
a prodigious effect upon the passions ; it must supersede 
the necessity of revenge, by strengthening the power of 
law ; whereas, in barbarous times, a man has only his 
own malevolent passions to trust to for protection. 
Courtesy, and the appearance of benevolence, are 
fashionable ; reputation becomes valuable, and a certain 
degree of good faith is more generally diffused. 

The most considerable difference between the active 
powers of the sexes, is, that women are more generally 
under the influence of fear; and they rather avoid 
shame, than seek glory. They are probably, also, more 
under the influence of the benevolent feelings than men, 
because, in the distribution of duties, a great number of 
benevolent offices devolve upon them ; and because they 
are exempted from all those which require an immediate 
exertion of the malevolent passions, or at least a suppres- 
sion of the benevolent ones. It is the duty of men to 
cut off limbs, hang criminals, and massacre the enemies 
of their country, whenever they are able : they are 
soldiers, judges, and physicians : — women are carefully 
protected from every situation which requires the sacri- 
fice of a single instant of benevolence. Speaking very 
generally and grossly, the effect of solitude is to cherish 
great virtues, and to destroy little ones. " Society," 
says Adam Smith, "is the best preservative of that 
equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self- 
satisfaction and enjoyment : men of retirement and 
speculation, who are apt to sit brooding at home over 
either grief or resentment, though they may often have 
more humanity, more generosity, and a nicer sense of 
honor, yet seldom possess that equality of temper which 
is so common among men of the world." 

The difference of the passions, and the different pro- 
portions in which the same passions are measured out to 
different individuals, form the leading and most prom- 
inent diversities in human character. Men differ from 
each other very materially, as their desires are negative 


or positive ; — as they wish to obtain praise, or to avoid 
blame. In the first class are the vain, the ambitious, and 
the active part of the human race : the last contains men 
of reserve, of humility, and of caution ; who, provided 
they do not incur ridicule and disgrace, are well con- 
tented to leave to others the contest for distinction. 

Men differ, as their desires are vehement or weak. 
Some can hardly be said to have any desires at all; 
others would overturn kingdoms, and mingle heaven 
with earth, to effect the least of all their desires. 

Another variety in human character is, the length or 
continuation of desire, which, united with vehemence of 
desire, makes, I believe, what we call strength of char- 
acter ; for we could not deny to any man that attribute, 
who wished any thing vehemently, and continued in the 
pursuit of it steadily ; at least, if it was his habit to feel 
and act after this manner. Then again, we may ob- 
serve a striking dissimilarity among men, as they are 
governed by near or distant motives ; or, in other words, 
as they are under the influence of calm, or strong pas- 
sions. We distinguish, also, between warm and cold 
dispositions, that is, between different degrees of the 
benevolent feelings, — as we do between different degrees 
of irascibility, in the epithets irritable and patient. Some 
men are extremely benevolent in little things, and dis- 
tinguish themselves by their politeness ; others have the 
great virtues, and not the lesser ones. 

A disposition to fear, or to hope, makes two different 
classes of men ; so does the place, or degree, in which a 
man puts himself, with regard to his fellow-creatures. 
It has often been said, that, where the passions are the 
most difficult to be roused, they are the most terrible 
when they are roused. It is most probable that this 
opinion is not quite so true as it is supposed to be, from 
the deception which, in this case, must necessarily be 
exercised upon the imagination by the contrast. Who- 
ever were to see a beautiful young lady in a violent 
rage, would be apt to think it much more excessive and 
violent, from the mere novelty and surprise of the thing, 
than if he had beheld a captain of a man-of-war in a sim- 
ilar situation of mind. Again, it must be remembered, 


that the causes which throw a person of a mild disposi- 
tion into a fit of rage, must be very strong, to commit 
such an outrage upon the customary habits of his na- 
ture ; whereas, an equal degree of indignation may easily 
be produced in a more irritable disposition, by a cause 
less grave and important. But, the degree of provoca- 
tion being given, and the effects of novelty allowed for, 
it is not easy to see, why the passions of a phlegmatic 
man, once roused, should be stronger and more difficult 
to be allayed than those of one more accustomed to pas- 
sion. One solution, indeed, there is, which has some ap- 
pearance of plausibility. Men accustomed, for instance, 
to anger, may often have suffered from anger ; though 
unable to check the passion entirely, they have learned a 
certain degree of control over its wildest excesses, and 
are not, at those moments, quite so unable to govern 
themselves as they appear to be : but, where passion is 
new, it is unsuspected, unaccustomed to any check, and 
much more likely to hurry en to excesses, because its 
excesses are not feared, and^hardly known. There is a 
certain analogy to this in drunkenness. Professed reg- 
ular drunkards preserve a certain glimmering of reason, 
and are seldom very extravagant in their behavior: 
drunkenness in a person unaccustomed to it is often per- 
fect madness. 

Such are a few of the most striking phenomena of the 
passions, which move the world, and make up the secret 
life and inward existence of man ; for what we do see 
and know with certainty of any human creature, is, 
whether he is lodged in marble or in clay, — whether 
down or straw is his bed, — whether he is clothed in the 
purple of the world, or molders in rags. The inward 
world, the man within the breast, the dominion of thought, 
the region of passion, — all this we can not penetrate : we 
can never tell how a kind and benevolent heart can 
cheer a desperate fortune ; the comfort which the lowest 
man may feel in a spotless mind, — the firmness which a 
man derives from loving justice, — the glory with which 
he rebukes the bad emotion, and bids his passions be still. 
Therefore, not to the accidents of life, but to the foun- 
tains of thought, and to the springs of pleasure and pain, 


should the efforts of man be directed to rear up such 
sentiments as shall guard us from the pangs of envy ; to 
make us rejoice in the happiness of every sentient being ; 
to feel too happy ourselves for hatred and resentment; 
to forget the body, or to enslave it forever ; seeking to 
purify, to exalt, and to refine our nature. This is the 
rigid discipline of moral philosophy, which, rigid as it is, 
is so beautiful and so good, that without it no condition 
of life is tolerable ; with it, none wretched, sordid, or 



Dr. Reid, in his essay upon the Active Powers, re- 
marks of our desires, that they have, all of them, things, 
not persons, for their object. They neither imply any 
good nor ill affection towards any person, nor even tow- 
ard ourselves. They can not, therefore, with propriety 
be called either selfish or social. But there are various 
principles of actions in men, which have persons for 
their immediate objects, and imply, in their very nature, 
our being well or ill affected to some person, or at least 
to some animated being. " Such principles," says Dr. 
Reid, " I call by the general name of affections ; whether 
they dispose us to do good or hurt to others." This 
method, by which passions are referred to persons, 
and desires to things, has been also adopted by Mr. 
Dugald Stewart, in his " Outlines of Moral Philosophy," 
without any alteration. But if desire concern only 
things, why is the love of esteem classed among the 
desires ? for that, surely, respects persons ; and why are 
joy and grief classed among the passions without any 
limitation ? for grief may be occasioned by the loss of 
£20,000., as by the loss of an aunt or a cousin. There 
is a grief occasioned by persons, and a grief occasioned 
by things ; but both Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart would 
not scruple to call grief — let its cause be what it would 
— by the name of passion. The first object, surely, in 
all investigations of this nature, is to ascertain in what 
sense such words are actually used : and then, after 
showing that such uses are unsatisfactory or vague, to 
propose that deviation from the established meaning, 
which, being the most useful, is the least violent. In 


chemistry, mineralogy, or any science remote from com- 
mon life, the popular language which respects them, is 
commonly not only useless, but it conduces to error ; 
and is better kept out of view : but in the language of 
feeling, words are of great importance, because every 
man feels they are the repositories of human judgments, 
upon a subject on which all men are, more or less, cal- 
culated to judge. It will appear, I believe, that, in all 
this business of feelipg, there are three things which have 
particularly attracted our notice : — the violent perturba- 
tion or derangement the mind suffers ; the wish to do 
something, or obtain something, with which that pertur- 
bation is accompanied ; and the cause from which that 
perturbation is derived. 

" Achilles heard : with grief and rage opprest, 
His heart swell' d high, and labor'd in his breast ; 
Distracting thoughts by turns his bosom ruled, 
Now fired by wrath, and now by reason cool'd : 
That prompts his hand to draw the deadly sword, 
Force through the Greeks, and pierce their haughty lord ; 
This whispers soft, his vengeance to control, 
And calm the rising tempest of the soul." 

In this, and in every other picture of extreme passion, 
it is to the perturbation itself, its causes, and its conse- 
quences, that we direct our inquiry. Whenever the 
emotion proceeds from a bodily cause, and is accom- 
panied with a wish to act, or to obtain, we give to that 
emotion the name of appetite ; — as in the instance of hun- 
ger and thirst. Here the mind is thrown into a state of 
emotion, — the body is the cause of that emotion ; and it 
is accompanied by a wish to obtain, and to act. No 
one would now call hunger and thirst, passions ; or im- 
agine that the celebrated authoress of the Plays on the 
Passions, is bound, in the prosecution of her task, to bring 
forward a hero who has not eaten any thing for forty- 
eight hours, and to conclude such a play with the ca- 
tastrophe of a dinner or a supper. 

We say a desire for food, as well as an appetite for 
food ; but in speaking of the desires, and the appetites, we 
should hardly class together the desire of knowledge, and 
the desire of drink. It seems generally agreed, where 


any kind of precision is required, to call the bodily emo- 
tions by the name of appetites ; and the mental ones, by 
those of passion or desire. 

When the cause, then, of the emotion is the body, — 
and when it is accompanied with an active tendency, it 
is called appetite ; when it is not, it receives simply the 
name of bodily pain or pleasure. We may say meta- 
phorically, that gout, rheumatism, and lumbago, are the 
unpleasant passions of the body ; that warmth and re- 
pletion are its agreeable passions. 

Whenever we see any emotion of the mind which has 
not the body for its cause, we call it desire, if it lead to 
action ; — passion, if it do not. No one calls grief and 
joy, hope and fear, by the name of desire. To suffer 
from the desire of grief, is nonsense ; to suffer from the 
passion of grief, is the customary phrase. They are not 
called desires, because they are not the immediate causes 
of action. We say the desire of knowledge, the desire 
of esteem, the desire of power, because they are emotions 
leading immediately to action. Some emotions we call 
indiscriminately by the name of passion or desire : but 
this exactly confirms what I say ; for when we speak of 
the passion of revenge, we are more particularly think- 
ing of the perturbation the mind endures ; when we 
speak of revenge as a desire, we have in mind the ten- 
dency to action which it occasions : therefore, if I am 
right, the idea of referring desires to things, and passions 
to persons, is quite unfounded ; and this will turn out to 
be somewhere near their meaning. 

Appetites are emotions of mind, proceeding from a 
bodily cause, and leading immediately to action : there 
are also animal pains and pleasures, which are emotions 
of the mind proceeding from a bodily cause, and not lead- 
ing immediately to action. — Passions are emotions of the 
mind, not proceeding from a bodily cause, and not lead- 
ing immediately to action. — Desires are emotions of the 
mind not proceeding from a bodily cause, and leading to 
action. — And lastly, whenever we use the two words, 
desire and passion, for the same affection of mind, it is 
because in the one, we consider what the mind endures 



from the emotion ; in the other, how it is impelled to act 
by the emotion. 

I am aware it would be very curious, as well as very 
useful, here to consider how far the same divisions and 
distinctions obtain in other languages, which are adopted 
in our own : it would not be very difficult to do it, but 
it would necessarily lead to long verbal discussions, 
which might be very agreeable to two or three persons, 
and very tiresome to every one beside. 

I have already classed those emotions of the neutral 
class, which are called either desires or passions, among 
the latter ; because I found them so classed, and because 
it did not then occur to me, what was the distinguishing 
circumstance between the passions and desires. The 
desires, of which I shall treat at present, are, the desire 
of knowledge, the desire of esteem, the desire of power, 
the desire of possession, and the desire of activity : not 
that these are the only desires which possess the mind, 
but that almost all the lesser motives are immediately 
resolvable into them. Let every man consider the innu- 
merable principles of action by which he is every day 
impelled, and he will very soon discover that these de- 
sires are the origin of them all. You take a walk ; that 
is, you are under the influence of that principle of nature, 
which makes continued rest painful to you ; or you go 
to call upon some one, who will make you more rich, or 
more powerful ; or you go to a tailor, who will make 
you more respectable in your appearance. These great 
operating principles are broken down into innumerable 
divisions and subdivisions ; but there are very few of 
our actions which can not be traced to their source. 
The ten thousand minute things which we all perform 
every day, all proceed, directly or indirectly, from the 
great principles which I have enumerated. Look at 
the bustle of Bond street; drive from thence to the 
Royal Exchange ; observe the infinite variety of occu- 
pations, movements, and agitations, as you go along : 
nothing can appear more intricate, — more impossible to 
be reduced to any thing like rule or system ; and yet a 
very few elements put all this mass of human beings 
into action. If a messenger from heaven were on a sud- 


den to annihilate the love of power, the love of wealth, 
and the love of esteem, in the human heart ; in half an 
hour's time the streets would be as empty, and as silent, 
as they are in the middle of the night. I take it to be a 
consequence of civilization, that all the feelings of mind 
which proceed from the body excite little sympathy, in 
comparison with those which have not a bodily origin. 
The loss of a leg and an arm is a dreadful misfortune ; 
but the slightest disgrace would be considered as a much 
greater. To be laid up seven months in the gout every 
year is a piteous state of existence ; to lose a brother or 
a sister is a state of existence, in common estimation, 
still more miserable. The slightest pang of jealousy, or 
wounded pride, may be brought upon the stage ; but the 
most intense pain of body, introduced into a play, would 
excite laughter rather than compassion. Who would 
endure a tragedy, where the whole distress turned upon 
a fit of the palsy, or a smart rheumatic fever? Nothing 
could be more exquisitely ridiculous ! The fact is, as a 
nation advances in the useful arts, all bodily evils are so 
much mitigated, and guarded against, that they cease to 
excite that sympathy which they formerly did, because 
they are less generally felt. 

How ridiculous, as I before remarked, a play would be, 
of which a hungry man were the hero ! Why ? — be- 
cause we never suffer from extreme hunger, and have 
very little sympathy for it ; there is hardly any such 
thing known in civilized society : the author himself 
would, probably, be the only man in the whole play- 
house, who had ever seriously felt the want of a dinner. 
But if a nation of savages were to see such a drama act- 
ed, they would see no ridicule in it at all ; because starv- 
ing to death is, among them, no uncommon thing : they 
are advanced such a little way in civilization, that to fill 
their stomachs, is the great and important object of life : 
and I have no doubt, that to an Indian audience, the loss 
of a piece of venison might be the basis of a tragedy 
which would fill every eye with tears ; but, on the con- 
trary, they might be very likely to laugh, to hear a man 
complain of his wounded honor, if it turned out that he 
had ten days' provision beforehand in his cabin. In the 


same manner, the loss of a leg is the consummation of 
all evil, where there is nothing but body ; but it becomes 
an evil of the lowest order, where there remain behind 
the pleasures of imagination, of elegant learning, of the 
fine arts, of all the luxuries and glories of civilization, — 
the tendency of which is always to put down and vilify 
every thing which belongs to the body, and to exalt all 
the feelings in which the mind alone is concerned. In 
some of the Greek tragedies, there is an attempt to 
excite compassion by the representation of the agonies 
of bodily pain. Philoctetes cries out and faints from 
the extremity of his suffering, exclaiming upon the stage, 
* Oh, Jupiter ! my leg, my leg!" Hyppolitus and Her- 
cules are both introduced as expiring under the severest 
torments. These attempts to excite compassion by the 
representation of bodily pain, are certainly among the 
greatest breaches of decorum, of which the Greek theater 
has set the example ; and afford a strong suspicion that 
their audience was less elegant and refined than that which 
presides over our modern theaters. And the reason 
why such sort of appeals to the passions would not now 
be tolerated, is, not so much on account of the pain they 
would excite (because, the sufferings of the mind excite 
pain), but because bodily pain is a dull, stupid, unvary- 
ing, uninteresting spectacle, in comparison with all those 
critical and delicate emotions of mind, which are univer- 
sally felt in a state of civilization, — and in that state 
alone. Dr. Adam Smith seems to imagine that our dis- 
regard of the bodily appetites and passions, can be ac- 
counted for on general principles. " Such is our aver- 
sion," he says, " for all the appetites which take their 
origin from the body : all strong expressions of them are 
lothsome and disagreeable. According to some ancient 
philosophers, these are the passions which we share in 
common with the brutes, and which, having no connec- 
tion with the characteristical qualities of human nature, 
are upon that account beneath its dignity. But there 
are many other passions which we share in common 
with the brutes, such as resentment, natural affection, 
even gratitude, which do not, upon that account, appear 
to be so brutal. The true cause of the peculiar disgust 


which we conceive for the appetites of the body, when 
we see them in other men, is, that we can not enter into 
them. To the person himself who feels them, as soon as 
they are gratified, the object that excited them ceases to 
be agreeable : even its presence often becomes offensive 
to him ; he looks round to no purpose for the charm 
which transported him the moment before ; and he can 
now as little enter into his own passion as another 

I can not think this explanation to be just ; but it seems 
to me, that all the pains and pleasures of the body are 
degraded, and put down, by the greater pains and pleas- 
ures of the mind introduced by civilization. 

Having premised these observations, I proceed to con- 
sider the desire of knowledge itself. 

A child loves novelty, because the excitement which 
it occasions is agreeable : he does not consider whether 
the novelties which attract his attention are useful or 
not ; but he merely loves them because they are new. 
It is from this passion that he becomes so rapidly ac- 
quainted with the properties of matter. In what we 
call his idlest moments, he is making himself acquainted 
with the qualities of objects, and the powers of his own 
body ; — is wax soft ? is iron hard ? is wood fit to eat ? 
how high can I jump ? what can I carry ? and such like 
questions, which may be called the grammar of exist- 
ence, a child is perpetually resolving, under the influ- 
ence of novelty. The desire of knowledge is this same 
principle, guided by utility ; for no person, I believe, is 
said to acquire knowledge, who merely acquires new 
truths, but only he who acquires new useful truths. It 
would not be impossible to ascertain how many persons 
there are in Great Britain whose names begin with an 
S. A person who ascertained this, would acquire new 
truths ; but we should hardly say he was influenced by 
a desire of knowledge. 

The love of knowledge is, perhaps, very seldom gen- 
uine : it is not loved for the direct pleasure it affords, 
but to avoid disgrace ; or to obtain money, or fame, or 

* Dr. Adam Smith's " Moral Sentiments," part i. p. 46. 


power ; or for the pleasure of communicating it. There 
are, I fancy, very few of those who love knowledge the 
best, that would pursue it with any great degree of 
ardor, if they were so completely excluded from society, 
as to render it impossible that they should communicate 
with mankind, either in person, or by their works. The 
fact is, that to seek for those novelties which are hidden 
in history, or in science, — to wait for our gratifications 
so long, and to withstand so many present impulses of 
sense, as every lover of knowledge must do, — is no very 
easy thing. It requires all these auxiliary passions to 
help it out. It rewards so much, that it ought to be 
rewarded; it confers so much honor, that it ought to 
be honored ; it communicates so much pleasure, that 
it ought to be pleased ; it is so immensely valuable to 
mankind, that no motive which gives it birth can be a 
bad one. The best, however, of all motives is (as Lord 
Bacon has told us), that we may employ the gift of 
reason, given us by God, to the use and advantage of 
man. The love of knowledge, merely for its own sake, 
and without any reference to its utility, is a passion 
quite similar to that which is felt by a child ; — a desire 
to procure excitement from novelty and surprise. The 
immediate and instant pleasure derived from reading an 
ingenious problem in Euclid, is not different from that 
which a child would feel at the sight of a new toy ; but 
a man before he sets about gratifying this passion for 
novelty, satisfies himself that the novelties which he is 
seeking, are useful. So that the love of knowledge is 
very often a mere secondary passion ; and it proceeds 
from the love of that fortune and fame, which is the 
consequence of knowledge ; or, when it seems more 
original, it may be resolved into the love of emotion or 

But though, in common, the love of knowledge is 
solvable into some other passion at its origin, and before 
it is formed by association, yet there are some very 
remarkable instances of the pure love of knowledge, 
where it is not easy to ascribe its existence to any other 
cause. Such appears to have been the case with James 
Ferguson, the philosopher and the mechanic. He was 


born in Scotland, of the poorest parents ; and his love 
of knowledge began to exert itself at the earliest age. 
He learned to read from hearing his father teach his 
brother : and had made that acquisition before any one 
suspected it in the slightest degree. He made a pro- 
digious advance in mechanics while he was a farmer's 
boy, without any instructor, or the help of any one 
book. Of an evening after he had brought home the 
sheep, he employed himself in contemplating the stars ; 
and began the study of astronomy, by laying down, from 
his own observation only, a celestial globe : in these ob- 
servations and occupations he was discovered, and in- 
troduced to public notice. 

The famous Buxton had not the slightest recollection 
when his passion for numbers began. His attention 
was, from the earliest times of his life, so constantly 
fixed upon arithmetic, that he frequently, when a child, 
took no cognizance of external objects ; and when he 
did, it. was only of their numbers. If any space of time 
was mentioned, he immediately reduced it to seconds ; 
if any person mentioned that he had been traveling so 
many miles, Buxton told him the number of hair's- 
breadths he had been over. At church, he found it 
quite impossible to attend to the meaning of what the 
clergyman said, but he knew exactly of how many words, 
syllables, and letters, the sermon consisted. It is very 
difficult to ascribe such instances as these to any other 
cause than the mere love of knowledge itself; but in 
general, it is the instrument of some other desire at first, 
— till at last, by the customary process of association, it 
becomes to be loved on its own account. The desire 
of knowledge in any people begins from the love of nov- 
elty, is cherished by the love of utility, and then princi- 
pally encouraged by the fame and distinction to which it 
leads. Curiosity would be the first motive in a savage, 
to examine the arms and instruments of Europeans ; a 
consciousness of their utility would increase this desire ; 
and, in process of time, the distinctions obtained by in- 
ventors and improvers of these things, would be the 
most customary incitement to the cultivation of knowl- 
edge. Nothing can be more important to the welfare 


of a community, than the wide extension of rational 
curiosity in the desire of knowledge ; it not only in- 
creases the comforts, enlivens the feelings, and improves 
the faculties of man, but it forms the firmest barrier 
against the love of pleasure, and stops the progress of 
corruption. Every nation has its chances for happiness 
increased, in proportion as it honors and rewards a spirit 
which, above all things, honors and rewards it. 

The strongest of all our desires, seems to be the desire 
of esteem. It is the cause of innumerable other desires : 
it is the frequent cause (as I have before said) of the 
love of knowledge : it is the cause, very often, of the 
love of wealth; for no man, I presume, who lived in a 
desert, and moved about without a single soul to look 
at him, would care what sort of a coat he wore, provided 
he was kept from the cold ; or whether he eat out of 
earthenware, or silver, provided his meat was kept out 
of the dirt. In the same way, the love of power may be 
traced to it ; not but that there exists a love of power, 
quite independent of it, — but that men very often love 
power, only for the additional esteem they gain from it 
among their fellow-creatures. The love of life perpetu- 
ally gives way to the love of esteem ; men are shot, and 
hacked to pieces, from the hope of gaining esteem, or 
the fear of losing it. Upon this subject of the desire of 
esteem, there are two opinions which require considera- 
tion ; the one of Dr. Adam Smith, the other of Mr. 
Hume. " We are not content," says the former of 
these writers, " with praise, unless we deserve it ; nor 
are we content with deserving it, unless we obtain it." 
It is probable, therefore, that there are two original prin- 
ciples in the human mind;* the one, the love of praise; 
the other, the love of praiseworthiness. In the same 
manner, we are not easy when we are blamed, even 
though we deserve it ; nor are we easy to deserve it, 
even though we are not blamed : therefore, here the 
double principle is observable, — first, the dread of blame ; 
next, the dread of blameworthiness. The opinion of 
Mr. Hume is, that there is no love of the esteem oi 
others, except as that esteem enables us to esteem our- 
selves ; that the thing wanted is self-approbation ; and 


the praise of others is only important as it is a means of 
gratifying this feeling. . 

In the first place, what, in a mere moral point of view, 
is meant by self- approbation ? (Put religion out of the 
question for a moment.) Examine, in a mere human 
point of view, what passes in your own mind when you 
approve yourself. It is really nothing more than that 
pleasure which results from the esteem of all honest and 
reflecting men. When you are universally blamed, 
though you know you have done right, you always com- 
fort yourself that the world would have determined 
otherwise, had they been acquainted with all the circum- 
stances, and informed of the real motives. You refer 
the matter to a more enlightened tribunal, or to posterity: 
you do not pretend to set up your own self- approbation, 
against the judgment of others ; but you approve your- 
self, merely because you say, better men, more enlight- 
ened men, and more impartial men, would have decided 
in a very different manner. Therefore, I can not see 
how self-esteem, and the desire of the esteem of others, 
can be compared together : for, called upon to define 
self-esteem, I could say nothing else of it than that it 
was that agreeable feeling which proceeds from the be- 
lief that we possess, or that we ought to possess, the 
esteem of others. Then again, it is very true, that we 
love praise, and we love to deserve praise ; but the love 
of praiseworthiness is merely a consequence of the love 
of praise, — not an original principle. To make my 
meaning the more clear, I will put this case : — A great 
battle is gained, the plan and dispositions of which are 
admirable ; the general who conducted the army is con- 
sidered as a consummate master of the military art, and 
arrives at the very summit of reputation as an accom- 
plished officer ; but this plan of the battle was drawn out 
for him the evening before, by one of his aides-de-camp, 
whose original conception it was, and to whom all the 
merit is really due. Which is the most enviable situa- 
tion ? His, who is praised without being praiseworthy ; 
or his, who is praiseworthy without being praised ? No- 
body here could entertain a moment's doubt about the 
matter, that the praiseworthiness is preferable to the 


praise. But why ? Merely from the love of praise ; 
merely because it, in the end, procures more praise. A 
miser may refuse a sum of money, because, by so doing, 
in the end he may gain a greater : his reputation is 
worth more to him than the sum which he is offered for 
it ; he does not love reputation better than money, but 
lie loves reputation merely because he loves money. 
Just so with praiseworthiness : it grows out of the love 
of praise, and is only preferred to it at any particular 
time, because, by that temporary preference, it is prob- 
able more praise, in the end, will be obtained ; at last, 
like every other preference, it grows into a habit. 

The desire of power, I can not better describe than in 
the words of Mr. Dugald Stewart. I quote from his 
" Outlines of Moral Philosophy ;" and his views upon 
this subject appear to be so truly excellent, that I shall 
quote them at some length : — 

" Whenever we are led to consider ourselves as the 
authors of any effect, we feel a sensible pride or exulta- 
tion in the consciousness of power ; and the pleasure is, 
in general, proportioned to the greatness of the effect, 
compared to the smallness of the exertion. 

" The infant, while still on the breast, delights in ex- 
erting its little strength upon every object it meets with ; 
and is mortified, when any accident convinces it of its 
imbecility. The pastimes of the boy are, almost without 
exception, such as suggest to him the idea of his power : 
— and the same remark may be extended to the active 
sports, and the athletic exercises, of youth and of man- 

" As we advance in years, and as our animal powers 
lose their activity and vigor, we gradually aim at ex- 
tending our influence over others, by the superiority of 
fortune and of situation, or by the still more flattering 
superiority of intellectual endowment : by the force of 
our understanding, by the extent of our information, by 
the arts of persuasion, or the accomplishments of address. 
What but the idea of power, pleases the orator, in the 
consciousness of his eloquence ; when he silences the 
reasons of others by superior ingenuity; bends to his 
purposes their desires and passions ; and. without the 


aid of force or the splendor of rank, becomes the arbiter 
of the fate of nations ? 

" To the same principle we may trace, in part, the 
pleasure arising from the discovery of general theorems. 
Every such discovery puts us in possession of innumer- 
able particular truths, or particular facts ; and gives us 
a ready command of a great stock of knowledge, to 
which we had not access before. The desire of power, 
therefore, comes, in the progress of reason and experi- 
ence, to act as an auxiliary to our instinctive desire of 

" The idea of power is, partly at least, the foundation 
of our attachment to property. It is not enough for us 
to have the use of an object. We desire to have it 
completely at our own disposal ; without being respon- 
sible to any person whatever. 

" Avarice is a particular modification of the desire of 
power ; arising from the various functions of money in 
a commercial country. Its influence as an active prin- 
ciple is much strengthened by habit and association. 

" The love of liberty proceeds, in part, from the same 
source ; from a desire of being able to do whatever is 
agreeable to our own inclination. Slavery mortifies us, 
because it limits our power. 

" Even the love of tranquillity and retirement has 
been resolved by Cicero, into the same principle. 

" The desire of power is also, in some degree, the 
foundation of the pleasure of virtue. We love to be at 
liberty to follow our own inclinations, without being 
subject to the control of a superior ; but this alone is 
not sufficient to our happiness. When we are led, by 
vicious habits, or by the force of passion, to do what 
reason disapproves, we are sensible of a mortifying sub- 
jection to the inferior principles of our nature, and feel 
our own littleness and weakness. A sense of freedom 
and independence, elevation of mind, and the pride of 
virtue, are the natural sentiments of the man, who is 
conscious of being able, at all times, to calm the tumults 
of passion, and to obey the cool suggestions of duty and 








Wonder, surprise, and admiration, — words often con- 
founded, — denote, in our languaore, sentiments, which 
though allied, are also in some respects distinct from 
one another. What is new and singular, excites the 
sentiment which, in strict propriety, is called wonder ; 
what is unexpected, surprise ; and what is great or 
beautiful, admiration. 

We wonder at all the rare phenomena of nature ; — at 
meteors, comets, and eclipses ; at singular plants and 
animals ; and at every thing, in short, with w T hich we 
have before been, either little, or not at all acquainted ; 
and we still wonder, though forewarned of what we shall 

We are surprised with those things which we have 
seen very often, but which we little expected to meet 
with in the place where w T e find them. We are sur- 
prised at the sudden appearance of a friend, whom we 
have seen a thousand times, but whom we did not 
imagine we were to see then. We admire the beauty 
of a plain, or the vastness of a mountain, though we have 
seen both often before ; and though nothing appears to 
us in either, but what we had expected with certainty to 
see. Or, to take it by illustration, and to exemplify the 
usages of the three words in one object : — The first time 
I see St. Paul's, I wonder at it; the hundredth time, I 
only admire it. If I wake in a coach, and find myself in 


St. Paul's Churchyard, when 1 thought I was in Pall 
Mall, I am surprised by the appearance of the building. 
For the first time of seeing such a building, surprise, 
admiration, and wonder might all be excited at the same 
moment ; afterward, surprise and admiration, or admira- 
tion alone. 

When an object of any kind, which has been for some 
time expected and foreseen, presents itself, whatever be 
the emotion which it is by nature fitted to excite, the 
mind must have been prepared for it, and must even in 
some measure have conceived it before, because the idea 
of the object having been so long present to it, must 
have excited some degree of the same emotion which 
the object itself would excite. The change, therefore, 
is less considerable, and the passion which it excites 
glides gradually, and easily, into the heart without 
violence, pain, or difficulty. But the contrary of all this 
happens when the passion is unexpected. If it be a 
strong passion, the heart is thrown by it into a violent 
and convulsive emotion, such as sometimes occasions 
immediate death : sometimes the suddenness of the 
ecstasy so entirely disjoints the frame of the imagination, 
that it never after returns to its former tone and compo- 
sure, but falls either into a frenzy, or habitual lunacy ; 
or such as almost always occasions a momentary loss of 
reason, or of that attention to other things which our 
situation or our duty requires. From the apprehension 
of these consequences, we are very cautious of com- 
municating bad news on a sudden. The panic terrors 
which sometimes seize upon whole armies in the field, or 
great cities, when an enemy is in the neighborhood, and 
which deprive, for a time, the most determined of all 
deliberate judgment, are never excited but by the sudden 
apprehension of danger. 

Fear, though naturally a very strong passion, never 
rises to such excesses, unless exasperated by wonder, 
from the uncertain nature of the danger, and by surprise, 
from the suddenness of the apprehension. There are 
some very interesting observations on this subject in the 
tracts of Dr. Adam Smith ; one passage from which I 
shall take this opportunity of quoting. " Surprise, is not 


to be regarded as an original emotion, of a species 
distinct from all others. Violent and sudden change 
produced upon the mind, when an emotion of any kind 
is brought suddenly upon it, constitutes the whole nature 
of surprise. But when not only a passion, and a great 
passion, comes all at once upon the mind, but when it 
comes upon it while the mind is in the mood most unfit 
for conceiving it, the surprise is then the greatest. 
Surprises of joy when the mind is sunk into grief, or of 
grief when it is elated with joy, are therefore the most 
insupportable. The change is, in this case, the greatest 
possible. Not only a strong passion is conceived all at 
once ; but a strong passion, the direct opposite of that 
which was before in possession of the soul. When a 
load of sorrow comes down upon the heart that is 
expanded and elated with gayety and joy, it seems not 
only to damp and oppress it, but almost to crush and 
bruise it, as a real weight would crush and bruise the 
body. On the contrary, when, from an unexpected 
change of fortune, a tide of gladness seems, if I may say 
so, to spring all at once within it, when depressed and 
contracted with grief and sorrow, it feels as if it suddenly 
extended and heaved up with violent, irresistible force, 
and is torn with pangs, of all others the most exquisite, 
and which almost always occasion faintings, deliriums, 
and sometimes instant death. For it may be worth 
while to observe, that though grief be a more violent 
passion than joy, — as, indeed, all uneasy sensations 
seem naturally more pungent than the opposite agreeable 
ones, — yet, of the two, surprises of joy are still more 
insupportable than surprises of grief."* 

These observations are very true, and very interesting ; 
but they would have been introduced, perhaps, with 
greater accuracy, if the phenomena to which they refer, 
had been classed under the head of contrast rather than 
surprise ; for contrast and surprise, though feelings 
which very much resemble each other, are unquestion- 
ably very separable and distinct. This is a case which 
will set the distinction between contrast and surprise in 

* Dr. Adam Smith's " History of Astronomy." p. 8. 


a strong light : — If I have long been suffering from abject 
poverty, and suddenly receive the intelligence of coming 
into possession of a large fortune, the unexpectedness of 
the news excites in me the feeling of surprise ; but 
another distinct feeling is excited in me, by the contrast 
which I draw between my present fortune, and my past : 
which last feeling, I should have had even though I had 
expected my riches every day for a twelvemonth past. 

Not only grief and joy, but all the passions, are more 
violent when opposite extremes succeed each other. 
No resentment is so keen as that which follows the 
quarrels of lovers ; — no love so passionate, as that which 
attends their reconciliation : when near relations quarrel, 
they are generally ten times more vindictive than 
ordinary disputants. Contrast, produces just the same 
effects in the body. Moderate warmth, appears to be 
intolerable heat, if felt after extreme cold. What is 
bitter of itself, will seem more bitter, when tasted after 
what is very sweet. A dirty white, looks bright and 
pure, when placed by a jet black. In short, the vivacity 
of every sentiment, and of every sensation, seems to be 
greater or less, in proportion to the change made by 
either, upon the situation of the mind or organ ; which 
change must, of course, be the greatest when opposite 
sensations or sentiments are contrasted, and succeed 
immediately to each other. Contrast is extremely 
favorable to ugliness, or any natural disadvantages, 
where there are other recommendations to overcome 
them. The first impression, from appearance, is so 
disagreeable, that it animates all the pleasing impressions 
from merit, by the mere effect of contrast ; and therefore, 
it matters not what it is, — whether it be the loss of an 
eye, or an ill-contrived set of features, or a rustic gait, — 
it is merely an obstacle in the beginning. If you have 
merit of any kind to get over it, you will afterward 
derive good from it, rather than harm ; and be extolled 
as much above your true standard, as you were first of 
all depreciated below it. A great deal of the propriety 
of common behavior is regulated by contrast. No one 
could endure to see a judge dance, or a bishop vault into 
his saddle. A very regulated and subdued pleasantry 


and relaxation, is all that can be allowed to men 
habitually and officially dignified. Contrast in trifling 
objects, which can excite no high emotion, is the source 
of humor. 

There are two kinds of novelty ; — novelty in detached 
objects, and novelty in their succession. It was a novel- 
ty to the Romans to behold the elephants of King Pyrrhus : 
and it is a novelty to us to see men made drunk and 
mad by breathing a certain air ; it is an order of events, 
to which we have never been accustomed. We have 
not connected together the phenomena of drunkenness, 
and the reception of an aerial fluid into the lungs. There 
are also different degrees of novelty. An extensive 
building, or a complicated machine, may be new, after I 
have seen them three or four times ; because, it is im- 
possible to remember all the parts and relations, where 
they are so extensive and intricate. 

Another degree of novelty exists in objects, of which 
we have some information at second-hand ; for descrip- 
tion, though it contribute to familiarity, can not do away 
entirely with the effect of novelty, when the object is 
presented. The first sight of a lion occasions wonder, 
after a thorough acquaintance with the best pictures and 
statues of that animal ; and no man could see the great 
wall of Tartary without shuddering, even if he had read 
a whole circulating library full of embassies to, and trav- 
els in China. 

We have the greatest disposition to find resemblances, 
and to class objects together which affect the mind in a 
similar manner ; and so strong is this propensity in our 
nature, that it is hardly possible we can see any thing, 
without likening it to something we have seen or con- 
ceived before. The inhabitants of Owhyhee had no 
animals larger than hogs, and when they saw a goat on 
board Captain Cook's ship they called it a bird. Some 
white travelers, seized by the natives in the interior of 
Africa, were immediately pronounced to be a species of 
the monkey ; and as the Indian corn had been lately 
very much plundered by that animal, they well nigh 
escaped being stoned to death. It is, in fact, hardly pos- 
sible that we should see any thing without finding a re- 


semblance for it ; and therefore, strictly speaking, nothing 
is absolutely new : but things differ in the degree in 
which they resemble our previous ideas. The love of 
variety seems to be a low degree of the love of novelty ; 
for in running from the town to the country, and the 
country to the town, I seek for a succession of objects, 
some of the properties and qualities of which I have for- 
gotten, and the revival of which produces in my mind a 
low degree of the same sort of excitement which is al- 
ways consequent upon novelty. A person has been 
absent a whole winter, in London : the parlor, the 
drawing-room, and the lawn, in the country, can not be 
said to be absolutely new, but still, in a certain degree, 
they are faded away from the memory ; the little traces 
are gone, the great work of oblivion is clearly begun, and 
the pleasure we experience at revisiting the haunts of 
our childhood, is derived from the treachery and infir- 
mity of our faculties. In the same manner, we are apt 
to tire of our companions. When we have seen them 
some time, we fly to others for relief, whose style and 
conversation has become slightly obliterated in our minds, 
and by the comparative freshness of which, we are more 

All these phenomena of which I have been speaking, 
the effects of contrast, variety, and novelty, are all refer- 
able to one fact, — the effects of change upon the mind ; 
for the mind is in a state of rest, when the ideas which 
pass through it are not very different from each other, 
nor very sudden in their approach, nor very new : but 
these three sorts of change, — novelty, suddenness, and 
contrast, — rouse it in a moment from its slumbers, and 
let loose all the storms of passion. 

" I was sitting," says the author of some Letters upon 
the Earthquake at Lisbon, " I was sitting playing with 
my kitten, and just going to breakfast. I had one slipper 
on, and the other was in pussy's mouth ; when my at- 
tention was roused by the sudden sound of thunder ; the 
floor heaved under me, and I saw the spire of the church 
of the Holy Virgin come tumbling to the ground, like 
a plaything overturned by a child. I rushed into the 
street, unknowing what I did, and where I went ; and 


beheld such a scene, as made it come into my mind, that 
the end of all things was at hand, and that this was the 
judgment-day appointed by God ! By this time the air 
was filled with the screams of the mangled and the dy- 
ing. The dwellings of men, the trophies of conquest, 
the temples of God, were falling all around me, and my 
escape appeared quite impossible. I made up my mind 
for death." 

There is in this picture, I think, suddenness, contrast, 
and novelty, in abundance ! Nor is it inappositely con- 
trasted with the calm and familiar state of his ideas, pre- 
vious to the commencement of the earthquake. 

It is commonly said and thought that no account can 
be given of these effects of change upon our minds, — 
that we are pleased with novelty, and affected by sur- 
prise and contrast, because such is the law of nature ; 
and that no other reason can be given. But surely the 
explanation of it is, that all the changes of matter are so 
apt to affect us with pleasure and pain, that, on this ac- 
count, we watch its changes. If no object that you 
could present to a child, could give that child either 
pleasure or pain, 1 submit to every body here present, 
whether it seems very probable that the child would care 
one farthing about the changes of objects : but some ob- 
jects are sweet, and some are disgusting, — like physic ; 
and some smooth, and some prick him ; and therefore, as 
every object presented to him affects his interests, he gains 
rapidly those habits of attending to the changes of objects, 
which, because the origin of it lies hidden in the remot- 
est infancy, we indolently pronounce to be an ultimate 
fact, and incapable of explanation. A child is originally 
excited by new objects, and by objects suddenly present- 
ed to his notice, from the hope of the pleasures, or fear 
of the pains, it may produce. For the very same reason, 
he is struck by contrast. He has an interest in study- 
ing the qualities of every thing with the greatest quick- 
ness. The mind travels with more difficulty from a 
sheep to an elephant, than from a sheep to a lamb. The 
difficulty of mastering and arranging the new ideas, from 
their great dissimilarity with those which preceded them, 
is that excitement of mind which contrast produces ; and 


variety is the same thing, in a less degree. If matter 
could do us neither good nor harm, we should see Gor- 
gons, Chimaeras, and Minotaurs, starting up under our 
feet, with as much indifference as we think about them; 
and the only reason why surprise, novelty, and contrast, 
in our conceptions, are not as strong as in our percep- 
tions, is, that they have little to do with pleasure or pain. 
No man had more new, surprising, and contrasted ideas, 
than Ariosto ; but nobody ever heard of his surprising 
himself into swoons by his own conceptions : a mouse 
running across the room has probably startled him much 
more than all his own beautiful extravagances have ever 
been able to do. 

We have, in the same manner, a pleasure in contem- 
plating the resemblances of objects, and their differ- 
ences : hence, method and classification in science ; the 
mode of arguing by analogy ; and the rules laid down 
for the regulation of common life. It seems to be most 
probable that all this comes from the strong motive 
which pain and pleasure communicate to us, for ob- 
serving the resemblances of matter; for a child that 
loves sugar, observes the appearances of sugar, and 
every thing white is a resemblance, which is apt to ex- 
cite his appetite : perhaps he takes up a piece of salt, and 
the pain which this mistake inflicts, excites him to fresh 
observation, and makes him more attentive in his classi- 
fications. If he got nothing by observing whether objects 
were alike or unlike, he would never observe or classify 
at all. I beg leave to observe, that I am only speaking 
of the origin of contrast, novelty, discernment, and 
variety ; for after the mind has once got the notion, that 
new things are to be watched, on account of their 
consequences, the middle term, according to the usual 
process of association, is soon omitted, and novelty is 
remarked on account of itself; just as, at last, money is 
loved for itself. And this is another reason why the 
cause of the feeling is forgotten, and it is supposed to be 

If this be the history of our attention to change, the 
next question is, how far is change agreeable ? In the 
first -place, we must remember that novelty excites the 


mind, and that when the mind is in a state of excite- 
ment, any passion which falls upon it becomes stronger 
than it otherwise would be. Whoever was frightened 
by a storm at sea, would be more frightened if he were 
at sea for the first time, because the novelty exciting his 
mind, would come to the aid of the passion of fear. 
Whoever saw a beautiful spectacle on the stage, would 
feel the pleasure rendered much greater by the excite- 
ment of novelty. There is also a pleasure in the excite- 
ment of mere novelty, though perhaps not a very great 
one. No one would go out of his way to see a rat, but 
we should have some pleasure in seeing a white rat: the 
novelty of the color would in some measure overcome 
the disgust which that animal occasions. A Spaniard 
dressed as an Englishman would excite no curiosity ; — 
if he passed the streets in the dress of his native country, 
we should turn aside to look upon him. It is not easy 
to find instances, where we receive much pleasure from 
mere novelty. What we call the pleasures of novelty, 
are generally the pleasures of something else. A new 
cap, or a new gown, is the pleasure of figure, and the 
pleasure of color, or the pleasure of fashion, the associa- 
tion with elegance and gayety : the pleasure of novelty 
forms but a very small part of it. 

In contemplating the falls of Niagara, it would be the 
sublimity and the terror of the scene that we should 
call by the general name of novelty : innumerable ob- 
jects, quite as new, would be infinitely less striking, from 
their inferior sublimity. In the rage for traveling, the 
object is not so much to gratify the love of novelty as 
the love of excellence ; not merely to see new things, 
but new grand things, new beautiful things, new excel- 
lence, in which the grand and beautiful will, I should 
think, upon reflection, be found to have a much greater 
effect, than the new. 

This appears very much against the power of novelty ; 
that whenever its effects seem to be very great, it is 
always found in conjunction with other principles ; 
whenever it is found alone, its influence is very incon- 

Nearly the same observations may be made of sur- 


prise. Surprise increases pleasure and pain ; and in 
itself is slightly agreeable. If any one were to tell me 
that in taking a walk in the country, I should find a little 
seal, or a silver thimble, lying in a pathway where it had 
been left, nothing could be more indifferent to me than 
to look upon it ; but if I were to light upon such objects 
all of a sudden, I might derive a faint gleam of satisfac- 
tion from the mere surprise. It is only in such little 
objects that the question can be tried ; for when surprise 
comes to be mingled with great passions, it is very diffi- 
cult to know what to give to surprise, what to the feel- 
ings with which it is conjoined. A man thinks, and 
hears, that his son is killed in battle, and all of a sudden 
his son enters into the room where he is sitting, and the 
father drops down in a swoon ; but if a maid-servant, 
whom he believed to have been dead three years before, 
had entered his room, no such violent symptoms would 
have taken place, though the mere surprise, the unex- 
pectedness of the vision, would have been quite as great : 
therefore, it seems fair to say, that the effect is to be 
attributed in a greater measure to the conflicting pas- 
sions within, than to the mere surprise ; for, all surprise 
out of the question, and the father prepared, months 
before, to meet the son whom he had supposed to be 
dead, and aware of the very hour and moment of the 
meeting, yet still the trial would be very dreadful and 
severe. But, all-important affection out of the question, 
the mere surprise would not be of much consequence ; 
for if a pointer-dog were to enter the room, whose death 
had been considered as certain, the effect produced 
would be quite inconsiderable ; and yet in this case the 
mere unexpectedness is quite as great as in any of the 
others. But this is curious, that suddenness and admira- 
tion, or novelty and admiration in their combined state, 
produce effects infinitely more powerful than their sep- 
arate effects, added together, could ever be supposed to 
produce. It is impossible to look upon York Minster 
for the first time, without feeling a degree of transport ; 
but these transports are certainly not felt by the mayor 
or aldermen of York, who see it every week, — though 
even their callousness must be sometimes excited bv it. 


The only circumstance in which they differ from a 
stranger is, in wanting the feeling of novelty; which 
feeling by itself I have before shown to be very insig- 
nificant ; but, add it to admiration, and the whole effect 
is very striking. Mere surprise, by itself, produces no 
very stupendous consequences ; the separate power of 
novelty is not very strong ; mere contrast can very well 
be endured. Admiration, devoid of all these, is com- 
paratively weak ; but when a new object is suddenly 
presented to our view, contrasted with all other objects, 
and in itself a subject of admiration, it is then that the 
strongest sensations which the mind is capable of feeling 
are always produced. 

The same, or nearly the same, observations might be 
gone over respecting contrast and variety : and the 
result of the inquiry is, that, in all these considerable 
changes of our ideas, there is a pleasure, arising from 
the excitement which they produce ; and that the desire 
of occasioning that excitement, is very often a stimulus 
to action. It is notorious, however, in the instance of 
novelty, that it is more a stimulus with the young, than 
with the old. It will be curious to ascertain what are 
the causes of this remarkable difference between the 
different periods of life. Experience has taught to old 
men the danger of change, and the difficulty of fore- 
seeing its effects. They become lazy in the exertion of 
their faculties, and dislike that strain and excitement 
of mind, which new things occasion : whereas, excite- 
ment is agreeable to the young ; they have quite a pas- 
sion for it. Whatever men have done long, it is painful 
for them not to do ; to whatever they have done long, or 
seen long, they attach the very agreeable notion of self: 
" I have been accustomed to do so ;" — " this was the case 
in my time ;" — " I have always seen this, or that," — and 
such-like references to self; which always establish a 
pleasing connection of ideas. So that fear, indolence, 
reason, and habit, are constantly at work to destroy the 
power of novelty ; and the love of what is customary, 
becomes as much the characteristic of one age, as the 
love of what is new is that of another : and the reason 
why the balance is commonly against novelty, is, that so 


much more power is lodged in the hands of the old, than 
of the young. Let thirty-five be a middle period, divid- 
ing mankind into two classes. The elder of these two 
classes has infinitely a greater share of power and author- 
ity than the other : in the youngest even of this upper 
class, novelty has lost a great deal of its power, and habit 
has begun to fix its empire. The young object and com- 
plain, and think they can improve ; but they are com- 
pelled to wait so long before the power comes to them, 
that they are familiarized by habit, though not, perhaps, 
convinced by reason. So it happens, and happens, per- 
haps, very fortunately upon the whole, that the power is 
lodged in the hands of those who have constitutionally 
an aversion to innovation ; — more fortunately, certainly, 
than if it were lodged in the hands of those who had a 
love of it : but the best of all would be, that we should 
know the bias of every period of life, guard against it, 
and decide upon questions, not as they are new or old, 
but as they are good or bad. The pleasure occasioned 
by the excitement of these emotions, produces, as may 
be easily seen, the most important effects upon human 
happiness. Novelty is the foundation of the love of 
knowledge ; which is nothing but the desire of useful 
novelty. The love of surprise and wonder, have been 
the parents of poetical fiction, and of all those errors 
which held such deep hold upon the mind of man ; — 
witchcraft, demonology, astrology, and the manifold in- 
stances of superstition, which depended upon the sup- 
posed agency of invisible spirit. Whoever tells any 
thing wonderful, contributes to the pleasure of those who 
hear him, and therefore enjoys a temporary pre-emi- 
nence ; but, as the imagination is soon warmed up to 
this pitch, the next stage of narration must bring with it 
a new stage of astonishment : and in this way evidence 
is handed down to succeeding ages, till it requires the 
greatest efforts of labor, and force of acuteness, to gain 
a glimpse at the real truth. Mr. Knight has some very 
sensible remarks on the bad effects which the love of 
novelty produces upon taste, which to me are new, 
though very probably they may not be so to my hear- 
ers : — " The style of Virgil and Horace in poetry, and 


that of Caesar and Cicero in prose, continued to be ad- 
mired and applauded through all the succeeding ages of 
Roman eloquence, as the true standards of taste and 
eloquence in writing ; yet no one ever attempted to imi- 
tate them, though there is no reason to believe but that 
the praises bestowed upon them were perfectly sincere ; 
but all writers seek for applause, — and applause is only 
to be gained by novelty. The style of Cicero and Vir- 
gil was new in the Latin language when they wrote ; 
but in the age of Seneca and Lucan it was no longer so ; 
and though it still imposed by the stamp of authority, it 
could not even please without it ; so that living writers 
whose names depended upon their works, and not their 
works upon their names, were obliged to seek for other 
means of exciting public attention, and acquiring public 
approbation. In the succeeding age, these writers be- 
came cold and insipid ; and the refinements of Statius 
and Tacitus were successfully employed to gratify the 
restless pruriency of innovation. In all other ages and 
countries, where letters have been successfully culti- 
vated, the progress has been nearly the same ; and in 
none more distinctly than in our own : from Swift and 
Addison, to Johnson, Burke, and Gibbon, is a transition 
precisely similar to that from Caesar and Cicero, to Sen- 
eca and Tacitus. In the imitative arts, from the effects 
of novelty, the progress of corruption has been nearly 
the same."* Mr. Knight adds afterward, — and with 
perfect justice, — that though the passion for novelty has 
been the principal means of corrupting taste, it has also 
been a principal means of polishing and perfecting it. 

I have said a great deal upon the subject of novelty, 
and I do not know how I can better conclude than with 
the termination of an Essay on the same subject, which 
Dr. Johnson has pronounced to be one of the best- writ- 
ten pieces in the English language. " To add no more/' 
says the writer, " is not this fondness for novelty, which 
makes us out of conceit with all we already have, a con- 
vincing proof of a future state ? Either man was made 
in vain, or this is not the only world he was made for : 

* Knight, on Taste, 


for there can not be a greater instance of vanity than that, 
to which a man is liable to be deluded, from the cradle 
to the grave, with fleeting shadows of happiness ; his 
pleasures die in the possession, and fresh enjoyments do 
not rise fast enough to fill his mind with satisfaction. 
When I see persons sick of themselves any longer than 
they are called away by something that is of force 
enough to chain down the present thought ; when I see 
them hurry from one place to another, and then back 
again ; continually shifting postures, and placing life in 
all the different lights they can think of, — surely, say I 
to myself, life is vain, and the man beyond expression 
stupid or prejudiced, who, from the vanity of life can not 
gather, that he is designed for immortality." 




It appears to be the law of our nature, that our past 
thoughts and actions should exercise a very material 
influence upon those which are to come. Whatever 
ideas and whatever actions have been joined together, 
have, ever after, a disposition to unite, exactly in pro- 
portion to the frequency of their previous union ; till at 
last, the adhesion becomes so strong, that it frequently 
overcomes the earliest and the most powerful passions of 
our nature. This power of habit extends to the brute 
creation ; and appears to have some effect upon or- 
ganized matter, as I shall hereafter endeavor to show. 
Why we should be thus affected by habit, I presume 
can not be explained. We might have been so con- 
stituted as not to have had the smallest disposition to 
do again, what we had been constantly doing for ten 
years before ; we might have found it as difficult to pur- 
sue a track of thought to which we had been accustomed, 
as it is to strike into one entirely new : the fact is the 
reverse, — and that is all we can say ; when we get there, 
we arrive at the end of all human reasoning. Every 
one must be familiar with the effects of habit. A walk 
upon the quarter-deck, though intolerably confined, be- 
comes so agreeable by custom, that a sailor, in his walk 
on shore, very often confines himself within the same 
bounds. " I knew a man," says Lord Karnes, " who 
had relinquished the sea, for a country life : in the cor- 
ner of his garden he reared an artificial mount, with a 
level summit, resembling most accurately a quarter-deck, 
not only in shape, but in size ; and here he generally 
walked. In Minorca, Governor Kane made an excel- 

ON HABIT. 363 

lent road, the whole length of the island, and yet the in- 
habitants adhered to the old road, though not only 
longer, but extremely bad. The merchants of Bristol 
have an excellent and commodious Exchange, but they 
always meet in the street. There is hardly any con- 
venience of life, or any notion of utility or beauty, which 
may not be entirely changed by habit ; it is needless to 
multiply the instances." 

When ideas are united together in consequence of 
their having been previously joined by some accident, 
we call it association. There are various kinds of asso- 
ciations ; and it may, perhaps, render what I am going 
to say more clear, if I recapitulate a few of the different 
kinds of association. One idea may be associated to 
another idea ; the lowing of a cow may, in my mind, be 
constantly united with the idea of a green field. 2dly. 
An idea and a feeling may be constantly associated to- 
gether. Peter, the Wild Boy, as Lord Monboddo in- 
forms us, could never bear the sight of an apothecary ; 
it threw him into the most violent fits of rage : a prac- 
titioner had once given him so very nauseous a draught, 
that he never afterward forgot it, and could with the 
utmost difficulty be restrained from flying at any of the 
faculty that came within his reach. 

In the like manner, joy, or any other passion, may 
suggest ideas. A good father, when he is visiting any 
beautiful country, or partaking of any amusement, may 
wish that his wife and children were there to partici- 
pate in his satisfaction. Here the feeling of joy, intro- 
duces the idea of his family ; and this, in a benevolent 
mind, may grow into an association. 

A state of body may be associated with an idea. A 
man who had been very often to the high northern 
latitudes, might very possibly associate the idea of 
whales and bears with the feeling of cold ; or an East 
Indian might associate a state of heat with the idea of 
his white cotton dress, or any of the peculiar habits or 
objects of his country. 

A state of body might be associated with a passion ; 
cold might always produce joy in a Norwegian, if it 
reminded him of the scenes where he had passed a happy 


infancy ; or heat would produce unhappiness in a man 
who had been confined three or four years in the prisons 
of Seringapatam, and who had suffered dreadfully in 
such a situation from the ardor of the climate. Now, 
when all these conjunctions of ideas, feelings, and states 
of body, are confined merely to the intellect, they pass 
under the name of association : but whenever we begin 
to act in a customary manner, whenever any outward 
observable action becomes a member of the series, there, 
we begin to use the word habit. 

If a person, by accident, had lived with a great num- 
ber of snuff-takers, and had been accustomed to perceive 
that in any little pause of conversation, they all took 
out their snuff-boxes, the silence would immediately pro- 
duce the idea of snuff, — and this we should call associa- 
tion of ideas ; but if he were a snuff-taker himself, the 
silence would probably animate him to a pinch, — and 
this we should call habit. Whatever passes in the mind, 
only in consequence of custom or repetition, is associa- 
tion : where there is outward action, it is habit. There 
is no use whatever in the two names : they are, on the 
contrary, an evil ; because they multiply names without 
multiplying ideas ; but the reason is, that the effects of 
habit have long been observed, because every one 
notices actions. It is not above a century since asso- 
ciation has been thought of, or much attended to, be- 
cause it is very difficult to trace and to describe the 
operations of the mind. 

Habits may be divided into active and passive ; — those 
things which we do by an act of the will, and those 
things which we suffer by the agency of some external 
power. I begin with the active habits ; and, after stat- 
ing a few of the most familiar of them, I will shortly 
analyze the examples, in order to show that they are 
merely referable to association. It may be as well, per- 
haps, to give a specimen of the life of a man whose ex- 
istence was, at last, entirely dependent upon the habits 
he had contracted : it is a fair picture of the dominion 
which habit establishes over us, at the close of life. 
" The professed rule of Mr. Hobbes," says Dr. White 
Kennet, in his Memoirs of the Cavendish Family, " was 

ON HABIT. 365 

to dedicate the morning to exercise, and the evening to 
study. At his first rising, he walked out, and climbed 
up a hill : if the weather was not dry, he made a point 
of fatiguing himself within doors, so as to perspire ; re- 
marking constantly, that an old man had more moisture 
than heat ; and by such motion, heat was to be ac- 
quired, and moisture expelled. After this, the philoso- 
pher took a very comfortable breakfast, and then went 
round the lodgings to wait upon the earl, the countess, 
the children, and any considerable strangers ; paying 
some short addresses to all of them. He kept these 
rounds till about twelve o'clock, when he had a little 
dinner provided for him, which he eat always by him- 
self, without ceremony. Soon after dinner, he retired 
to his study, and had his candle, with ten or twelve pipes 
of tobacco, laid by him ; then, shutting the door, he fell 
to smoking, thinking, and writing, for several hours. He 
could never endure to be left in an empty house ; when- 
ever the earl removed, he would go along with him, even 
to his last stage, from Chatsworth to Hardwick. This 
was the constant tenor of his life, from which he never 
varied, no, not a moment, nor an atom." 

This is the picture of a man whose life appears to 
have been entirely regulated by the past; who did a 
thing because he had done it; who, so far as bodily 
actions were concerned, could hardly be said to have 
any fresh motives ; but was impelled by one regular set 
of volitions, constantly recurring at fixed periods. Now, 
take any one of his habits, and examine its progress ; it 
will afford a natural history of this law of the mind, and 
will show what circumstances in that law are most 
worthy of observation. 

He smoked : how did this begin ? It might have 
begun any how. He w T as staying, perhaps, at some 
house where smoking was in fashion, and began to smoke 
out of compliance with the humors of other persons. At 
first, he thought it unpleasant ; and as all the expirations 
and inspirations were new, and difficult, it required con- 
siderable attention ; and at the close of the evening he 
could have distinctly recollected, if he had tried to do so, 
that his mind had been employed in thinking how he 


was to manage and manoeuver the pipe. The practice 
goes on ; the disgust vanishes ; much less attention is 
necessary to smoke well : in a few days the association 
is formed ; the moment the cloth is taken away after 
supper, the idea of smoking occurs : if any accident 
happen to prevent it, a slight pain is felt in consequence ; 
it seems as if things did not go on in their regular track, 
and some confusion had crept into the arrangements of 
the evening. As the association goes on, it gathers 
strength from the circumstances connected with it ; 
from the mirth and conversation with which it is joined : 
at last, after a lapse of years, we see the philosopher of 
Malmsbury advanced from one, to one dozen of pipes ; 
so perfect in all the tactics of a smoker, so dexterous in 
all the manual of his dirty recreation, that he would fill, 
light, and smoke out his pipe, without the slightest 
remembrance of what he had been doing, or the most 
minute interruption to any immoral, irreligious, or un- 
mathematical track of thought, in which he happened to 
be engaged : but we must not forget, that though his 
amusement occupied him so little, and was passed over 
with such a small share of his attention, the want of it 
would have occupied him so much, that he could have 
done nothing without it ; all his speculations would have 
been at an end, and without his twelve pipes he might 
have been a friend to devotion, to freedom, or any thing 
else which, in the customary tenor of his thoughts, he 
certainly was not. The phenomena observable here are, 
that the physical taste lost its effect; that which was 
nauseous, ceased to be so. Next, the habit began with 
a considerable difficulty of bodily action, and with a full 
attention of the mind to what was passing. It was not 
easy to smoke, and the philosopher was compelled to be 
careful, in order to do it properly ; but as the habit 
increased, he indulged in it with such little attention of 
mind or exertion of body, that he did it without knowing 
he did it. Lastly, any interruption of the habit would 
have occasioned to him the greatest uneasiness. As 
these are the circumstances observable in all habits, 
they will each require and deserve some consideration. 
1st. It appears to be a general law, that habit diminishes 

ON HABIT. 367 

physical sensibility : whatever affects any organ of the 
body, affects it less by repetition. Brandy is begun 
in tea-spoons ; but the effect is so soon lost, that a more 
generous and expanded vehicle is very soon had recourse 
to : the same heat to the stomach, and the same intoxica- 
tion to the head, can not be produced by the same 
quantity of the liquor. So with perfumes ; wear scented 
powder, and in a month you will cease to perceive it. 
Habituate yourself to cold or to heat, and they cease to 
affect you. Eat Cayenne pepper, and you will find it 
perpetually necessary to increase the quantity, in order 
to produce the effect. " My perfumed doublet," says 
Montaigne, " gratifies my own smelling at first, as well as 
that of others ; but after I have worn it three or four 
days together, I no more perceive it : but it is yet more 
strange, that custom, notwithstanding the long inter- 
missions, and intervals, should yet have the power to 
unite and establish the effect of its impressions upon our 
senses, as is manifest in those who live near to steeples 
and the frequent noise of bells. I myself lie at home in 
a tower, where every morning and evening a very great 
bell rings out the Ave Maria, the noise of which shakes 
my very tower, and at first seemed insupportable to me ; 
but having now a good while kept that lodging, I am so 
used to it, that I hear it without any manner of offense, 
and often without awaking at it. Plato reprehends a 
boy for playing at some childish game : ' Thou reprovest 
me,' says the boy, ' for a very little thing.' ' Custom/ 
replied Plato, 'is no little thing.' And he was in the 
right ; for I find that our greatest vices derive their first 
propensity from our most tender infancy, and that our 
principal education depends upon the nurse."* 

In all these cases, the sensibility of the different parts 
of the body is diminished by repetition ; and the same 
substances applied to them, can not produce the same 
effects. The habit, it should be observed, does not act 
by individual substances, but often by classes : if you 
have accustomed yourself to opium, all soporific drugs 
have less effect upon you ; if to one species of wine, you 

* Montaigne, vol. i. p. 131. 


are capable of bearing a greater quantity of any other : 
the sensibility of the body is not only diminished toward 
that object, but toward many others similar to it ; 
chiefly, however, toward the object upon which the 
habit was founded. There are some facts, which do not, 
at the first view, appear to fall in with this doctrine. A 
taster of wines increases in his power of discrimination. 
A man accustomed to judge of the fineness of cloths by 
feeling them, feels them with more accuracy from prac- 
tice. A blind man, from mere habit, improves so 
astonishingly in the power of touch, that his nicety, in 
this respect, is hardly to be credited by a person en- 
dowed with sight. Whence comes it, if habit lessens 
bodily sensibility, that habit increases it in these in- 
stances ? My answer is, that it is not habit which in- 
creases the sensibility in these instances ; that the sensi- 
bility is actually diminished ; and better judgments 
made, with impaired sensibility, and increased attention, 
than others make with more sensibility and less atten- 
tion. The man who has been rubbing cloths all his life- 
time between his finger and thumb, has most probably 
not such an acute feeling as I have, who have made no 
such use of my finger and thumb ; but he has a fixed and 
lively attention to what feeling he has, and he knows the 
quality of cloth, of which that feeling is the indication. 
In all feeling, where attention is not concerned, he is 
just like every one else : heat affects him less if he has 
been exposed to it frequently ; so does cold : in his own 
particular art he does not deviate from the general law 
of diminished sensibility ; but counteracts that law, by 
his great increase of attention. This rule of the diminu- 
tion of sensibility by habit, includes, of course, pleasure 
as well as pain : nothing which we eat or drink con- 
stantly, can remain either pleasant or painful ; repetition 
infallibly diminishes both the pleasure and the pain. If 
the common part of our diet is not originally insipid, — as 
bread or water, — it becomes uninteresting, and no notice 
is taken of the flavor, — as is the case with salt. Tastes 
that are luscious, repetition not only destroys, but con- 
verts into disgusts. The habits of mankind are not so 
frequently formed upon these tastes, as they are upon 

UN HABIT. 369 

others, slightly disagreeable at their origin ; as coffee, 
olives, port wine, and tobacco : none of these are agreea- 
ble in their origin. The reason of this is, perhaps, rather 
moral than physical. In the luscious taste you set off 
from a pleasure, which becomes every day less and less, 
and at last terminates in a disgust. This is a good 
reason why you should stop. In the case of the olives 
and the coffee, you set off with a slight disgust, and go 
on to a negative state, or slight pleasure : and the reason 
why you encounter the first disgust, is fashion, or 
health ; or some use which you propose to derive from 
the disgustful object : thus, coffee clears the head, olives 
provoke to the use of wine, and so on. Hitherto I have 
endeavored to show the effect of habit on those pleasures 
and pains which have the body for their cause ; and that 
effect appears to be, a diminution of every kind of 
sensibility. The next subject for consideration will be, 
whether habit weakens our passive impressions, where 
the body is not concerned ; that is, whether because we 
have felt a passion, we are less likely to feel it again; 
that there is a less proneness to that kind of sensibility, 
than there was before ? The general rule is in the 
affirmative, — that habit strengthens our active determina- 
tions, while it weakens our passive impressions : this, I 
say, is the general rule ; I suppose it is the true one ; 
but as I can not reconcile innumerable cases to that rule, 
I shall very frankly, but at the same time in all humility, 
avow my dissent. If this rule were true, it would 
follow that a man is less liable to feel the passion of 
anger again, in proportion as he has felt it often before. 
This man is a very irritable man ; why so ? because we 
have never seen him in a passion ; — but here is another 
man, whom you may trust with the utmost impunity ; 
we have beheld him in such violent and such frequent 
fits of anger, that we are convinced he is the most 
peaceable man in the world. Habit weakens passive 
impressions, and previous irritation must therefore be 
the best security for the absence of all irritable feeling. 
If this rule were true, the best method of teaching a child 
good-temper, would be to irritate him as much as possi- 
ble. He might be cured of avarice by being taught to 



hoard ; rendered benevolent by being indulged in malice ; 
and cured of every vice, to the practice of which he had 
been diligently trained. 

Take fear ; there is a certain degree, at least, of that 
passion, which does not diminish the passive impression ; 
he who has been once heartily frightened by a great dog 
flying at him, is not likely, for any thing I can see, to be 
the less alarmed if he is attacked by a bull the following 
day, — but rather the more. To have slept in a house 
which caught fire, — to have run a narrow risk for life by 
the fall of a horse, — would not improve the confidence 
of a horseman, nor add to the soundness of sleep. Fear 
seems to increase the liability to fear, rather than to di- 
minish it. What has led to a contrary opinion, seems to 
be this, — that we become less afraid of the same object, 
or same class of objects. The first time 1 make a voy- 
age to the West Indies, I am afraid ; the tenth time, I am 
not ; — why ? not because my sensibility is blunted, but 
because my reason is instructed : I perceive there are 
much greater resources in skill and science, than I im- 
agined ; that the ship can ride with safety over those 
monstrous waves which at first bid fair to destroy ; that 
an unctuous and weather-beaten personage, by turning a 
wheel near him, can guide the prodigious animal, in 
whose inside I am sailing, with the most unerring pre- 
cision. It is not that I meet the same danger better, but 
that I have found out it is a much less danger. In al- 
most all the instances where men encounter those perils 
to which they are accustomed, with greater resolution 
than at first, it is because they have found out new re- 
sources and methods, by which they may be opposed ; 
or. because experience convinces them, the danger itself, 
independently of all methods of obviating it, was not so 
great as they had begun with supposing. Compassion is 
in favor of the rule ; for it is always worn out where it is 
frequently exercised. It is quite impossible that a sur- 
geon can feel much at an operation, — that a bookseller 
can have any very strong compassion for authors, — or 
that an overseer of the poor, who lives in the midst of 
misery, can care for it in a very lively manner. This is 
true in such extreme cases; but then, again, a certain 

ON HABIT. 371 

degree of exercise rather increases the passion than 
diminishes it ; for a man who had carefully stifled every 
emotion of compassion for half his life, would be ten 
times more unfeeling than he who had been over-stimu- 
lated by the too frequent contemplation of wretchedness. 
So that this fact, respecting compassion, contradicts the 
rule, as much as the other confirms it. Envy is perpet- 
ually and uniformly increased by habit ; so is jealousy : 
by all that we have indulged in these two feelings, ex- 
actly in the same proportion are we likely to be affected 
by them again. So that I really can not comprehend 
how the rule can be true, stated in so very general a 
manner. Some passions are increased by habit, others 
are decreased by habit ; others increased up to a certain 
point, then decreased. So that, in fact, there is no gen- 
eral rule about the matter ; and the effect of habit must 
be learned in each particular passion. It seems as if the 
rule had been taken from the organs of the body, and 
applied to the passions of the mind. Mr. Stewart's prin- 
cipal inferences are all taken from the body ; nor does 
he seem to doubt, but that they both follow the same 
law : — 

" I shall have occasion afterward to show, in treating 
of our moral powers, that experience diminishes the in- 
fluence of passive impressions on the mind, but strength- 
ens our active principles. A course of debauchery dead- 
ens the sense of pleasure, but increases the desire of 
gratification. An immoderate use of strong liquors de- 
stroys the sensibility of the palate, but strengthens the 
habit of intemperance. The enjoyments we derive from 
any favorite pursuit, gradually decay as we advance in 
years : and yet we continue to prosecute our favorite 
pursuits with increasing steadiness and vigor. 

" On these two laws of our nature is founded our ca- 
pacity of moral improvement. In proportion as we are 
accustomed to obey our sense of duty, the influence of 
the temptation to vice is diminished ; while at the same 
time, our habit of virtuous conduct is confirmed. How 
many passive impressions, for instance, must be over- 
come, before the virtue of beneficence can exert itself 
uniformly and habitually! How many circumstances 


are there in the distresses of others, which have a ten- 
dency to alienate our hearts from them, and which 
prompt us to withdraw from the sight of the miserable ! 
The impressions we receive from these, are unfavorable 
to virtue : their force, however, every day diminishes ; 
and it may, perhaps, by perseverance, be wholly destroy- 
ed. It is thus that the character of the beneficent man 
is formed. The passive impressions which he felt origi- 
nally, and which counteracted his sense of duty, have 
lost their influence, and a habit of beneficence is become 
a part of his nature."* 

It is clear from this passage, that Mr. Stewart con- 
ceives the same rule to obtain respecting the feelings of 
the body, and the feelings of the mind. The doctrine 
itself, he avows himself to have taken from Butler : it 
may be found in the 121st page of his " Analogy.' It 
may very likely be true ; and in dissenting from such 
truly great authorities, I am only stating the nature and 
extent of my own ignorance : but it is better to do this 
candidly at once, than to subscribe to opinions, which, 
after all the attention I am capable of giving to them, 
appear to me to be wrong. 

I remarked in my picture of Hobbes and his smoking, 
the pain the philosopher would have experienced if any 
circumstance had interrupted his habit. A very curious 
part of habit, — that though we feel no pleasure in doing 
the thing, we feel a great pain from not doing it : and 
the pain is not infrequently felt, before the cause is as- 
certained ; you don't feel as you have been accustomed 
to feel ; and, after some time, perceive that somebody is 
missing, whom you have been accustomed to see, or 
somebody or something present, which you have not been 
accustomed to see, — that you have left some insignifi- 
cant thing behind you, which you always carried with 
you : the habitual current of your thoughts and actions 
has been interrupted, and you are awakened by the pain 
of that interruption, to examine into the cause. 

Habit uniformly and constantly strengthens all our 
active exertions : whatever we do often, we become 

* Stewart's Elements, p. 525. 

ON HABIT. 373 

more and more apt to do. A snuff-taker begins with a 
pinch of snuff per day, and ends with a pound or two 
every month. Swearing begins in anger; it ends by 
mingling itself with ordinary conversation. Such-like 
instances are of too common notoriety to need that they 
be adduced ; but, as I before observed, at the very time 
that the tendency to do the thing is every day increas- 
ing, the pleasure resulting from it is, by the blunted sen- 
sibility of the bodily organ, diminished ; and the desire is 
irresistible, though the gratification is nothing. There 
is rather an entertaining example of this in Fielding's 
" Life of Jonathan Wild," in that scene where he is 
represented as playing at cards with the Count, a pro- 
fessed gambler. "Such," says Mr. Fielding, "was the 
power of habit over the minds of these illustrious per- 
sons, that Mr. Wild could not keep his hands out of the 
Count's pockets, though he knew they were empty ; nor 
could the Count abstain from palming a card, though he 
was well aware Mr. Wild had no money to pay him." 

No reason that I know of, can be given, why the 
habit of having done a thing, should increase the ten- 
dency to do it : all reason stops at this point, — it is not 
possible to explain it. The pain annexed to the inter- 
ruption of the habit is the means by which obedience to 
the law is secured. Nature is too good a legislator to 
pass any act without annexing a smart penalty to the 
violation of it. 

There remains to notice the very little attention of 
mind, and the very little bodily exertion, with which all 
habitual actions are performed. A boy, at his first be- 
ginning to learn arithmetic, adds together a column of 
figures with the greatest difficulty, and with the greatest 
uncertainty : an expert arithmetician adds up the long- 
est sum with the most unerring precision, and with as 
much rapidity almost as is required to advance his hand 
from the bottom to the top of the page. 

Montaigne says, in his chapter on " Custom and Law," 
" I saw the other day, at my own house, a little fellow 
who came to show himself for money, a native of Nantes, 
born without arms, who has so well taught his feet to 
perform the services his hands should have done him, 


that indeed they have half forgot their natural office, and 
the use for which they were designed ; the fellow, too, 
calls them his hands, and we may allow him to do so, 
for with them he cuts any thing, charges and discharges 
a pistol, threads a needle, sews, writes, and puts off his 
hat, combs his head, plays at cards and dice, and all this 
w r ith as much dexterity as any other could do who had 
more and more proper limbs to assist him ; and the 
money I gave him, he carried away in his foot, as we do 
in our hand. I have seen another, who, being yet a 
boy, flourished a two-handed sword, and (if I may so 
say) handled a halberd, with the mere motions and writh- 
ings of his neck and shoulders, for want of hands ; toss- 
ed them into the air, and caught them again ; darted a 
dagger ; and cracked a whip, as well as any coachman 
in France."* 

Every one, except Dr. Crotch, must remember the 
difficulty with which they first learned music. The 
correspondence between the note on the piano-forte and 
the note in the book was the first thing to be ascertain- 
ed ; then, that note is to be struck with a particular 
finger, with a particular degree of velocity ; and if she 
should sing at the same time, all these are to be accom- 
panied with certain inflections of the voice. The diffi- 
culty with which all this is done, the blunders which are 
made, and the slowness of the progress that is made at 
first, there can be no occasion I should describe, as there 
are so many here who must have felt it. At last, such 
is the astonishing facility acquired by habit, that there 
are many persons who will sit down to a glee which 
they have never seen before, play the bass with one 
hand, the treble with the other, and sing the third part ; 
that is, read three different languages, and perform 
three different sets of actions at the same time : and 
this, with such little effort of faculty or of finger, that they 
shall have plenty of leisure to observe who comes in 
and goes out ; who is dressed ill, who well ; and to pursue 
the usual train of thought, which passes in our minds 
on such occasions : and though it be absolutely neces- 
sary that each musical note, and each key of the piano- 

* Montaigne, vol. i. p. 133. 

ON HABIT. 375 

forte, must have been thought of by such a musician 
during the performance, they have passed through the 
mind with so much ease and rapidity, that it is impos- 
sible, or at least exceedingly difficult, to recall any of 
them. The reason of this astonishing facility, is partly 
to be explained by bodily, partly by mental causes. It 
proceeds from the strengthened association between the 
sign, and the thing signified : we read music with greater 
ease, and, the very instant we look at the note, and the 
musical line on which it is placed, know immediately to 
what part of the piano-forte the finger is to be carried. 
The other cause is merely a bodily cause : the actions 
of the fingers become associated together ; and one fin- 
ger having followed the other in a certain direction, fol- 
lows it ever after with much more ease. To shake on 
the piano-forte is extremely difficult to beginners. How- 
ever desirous any one may be of moving these two 
fingers rapidly, the muscles obey the decision of the will 
will with extreme difficulty; but when the respective 
motions of the two fingers are completely associated, so 
slight a determination of the will produces the desired 
effect, that it becomes difficult to recollect, the very mo- 
ment after, that we have thought any thing about the 
matter. Just so in learning to walk, or in grown-up 
persons learning to skate ; it requires a specific resolu- 
tion to put one leg before another. A skater stands 
tottering and trembling in his slippery career ; and when 
he has resolved which leg he will move the next, is obey- 
ed by that leg in a very awkward, reluctant, and mu- 
tinous manner, — the very leg which, when it has ac- 
quired a great number of associated strains and postures, 
is to gain its master deathless reputation as a flying 
Mercury, and render him the envy and glory of the 

It is impossible not to perceive in this analysis, which 
I have gone through, of the nature of habit, that power- 
ful effect which it must exercise upon human happiness, 
by connecting the future with the present, and exposing 
us to do again that which we have already done. If 
we wish to know who is the most degraded, and the 
most wretched, of human beings ; — if it be any object 


of curiosity in moral science, to gage the dimensions 
of wretchedness, and to see how deep the miseries of 
man can reach ; — if this be any object of curiosity, look 
for a man who has practiced a vice so long, that he 
curses it and clings to it ; that he pursues it, because 
he feels a great law of his nature driving him on toward 
it ; but, reaching it, knows that it will gnaw his heart, 
and tear his vitals, and make him roll himself in the dust 
with anguish. Say every thing for vice which you can 
say, — magnify any pleasure as much as you please, but 
don't believe you can keep it ; don't believe you have 
any secret for sending on quicker the sluggish blood, and 
for refreshing the faded nerve. Nero and Caligula, and 
all those who have had the vices and the riches of the 
world at their command, have never been able to do 
this. Yet you will not quit what you do not love ; and 
you will linger on over the putrid fragments, and the 
nauseous carrion, after the blood, and the taste, and the 
sweetness are vanished away. But the wise toil, and 
the true glory of life, is, to turn all these provisions of 
nature — all these great laws of the mind — to good ; and 
to seize hold of the power of habit, for fixing and secur- 
ing virtue ; for if the difficulties with which we begin, 
were always to continue, we might all cry out with 
Brutus, — " I have followed thee, O Virtue ! as a real 
thing, and thou art but a name !" But the state which 
repays us, is that habitual virtue, which makes it as 
natural to a man to act right, as to breathe ; which so 
incorporates goodness with the system, that pure thoughts 
are conceived without study, and just actions performed 
without effort : as it is the perfection of health, when 
every bodily organ acts without exciting attention ; 
when the heart beats, and the lungs play, and the pulses 
flow, without reminding us that the mechanism of life is 
at work. So is it with the beauty of moral life ! when 
man is just, and generous, and good, without knowing 
that he is practicing any virtue, or overcoming any diffi- 
culty : and the truly happy man, is he, who, at the close 
of a long life, has so changed his original nature, that he 
feels it an effort to do wrong ; and a mere compliance with 
habit, to perform every great and sacred duty of life. 



Before I proceed upon my present Lecture, I beg 
leave, in a very few words, to bring to your recollection 
the topics which I have dwelt upon in my last. 

My first object was to show that habit was to action, 
what association is to thought ; or, in other words, that 
it is associated action. I then divided habits into active, 
and passive : those things which we are prone to do, 
because we have done them ; and those things which we 
are prone to suffer, because we have suffered them. In 
those passive impressions, produced upon the mind 
through the body, I endeavored to show that the sensi- 
bility of the bodily organ was materially impaired by 
repetition, but that this rule was by no means to be ex- 
tended to the affections ; that it was not generally true 
that they were weakened by habit. I noticed the pain 
consequent upon the interruption of habit ; the uniform 
increase of active habits ; and lastly, the diminished atten- 
tion of mind; which latter circumstance I attributed, 
partly to the strengthened association of ideas, partly to 
the improved association of actions. This was the sub- 
stance of my last Lecture ; and I now go on to make 
those additional observations on habit, which I had not 
then time to comprehend in the discussion. 

It has very often been asked when a habit begins to 
exist. There must be a period in its formation, when 
custom can have little or no influence, and when we 
have nothing but a temporary and casual motive for the 
performance of the action. When is the action habit- 
ual ? — when not ? What is the delicate and discrimi- 
nating circumstance which decides you to call that mode 


of acting a habit ? Nothing, for instance, is more com- 
mon than to see persons beating the ground with their 
feet in any moment of vacancy of mind ; and it easily 
degenerates into a habit : the first or second time after 
it is done, it can not be called a habit ; is it so the tenth 
time? or when can the habit be fairly said to have 
established itself? It does not, I confess, appear to me 
to be by any means very difficult to answer this ques- 
tion. An active habit for any thing may be said to be 
formed, when we feel either a difficulty in not doing it, 
or a pain from its not being done ; and when the prin- 
cipal cause for this pain, or difficulty, is, that we have 
done the thing often before. For instance, to recur to 
the previous example, you tap the floor with your foot ; 
some one, who happens to be nervous, or indisposed, re- 
quests you to abstain : you very readily comply ; and in 
five minutes, when the prohibition is out of your mind, 
begin again ; and so on, perhaps, for three or four times. 
The proneness to do the thing, and the difficulty of not 
doing it, are here clear indications that the connection 
between the beating of the foot, and the vacant good- 
humored feeling of mind, is not in you merely casual and 
momentary, but that the one has the strongest disposition 
to produce the other ; and the only cause that can be 
alledged why they should be connected, is, that they have 
been connected before. You see a person drinking out 
of a particular mug or tumbler: — put another in its 
place ; if they both do equally well, of course there is no 
habit ; but if the tumbler be missed, and the other com- 
plained of, it is clear that a habit is formed : there is a 
connection between the act of drinking, and the idea of 
that tumbler, which can not be separated without giving 
pain. Who could drink tea out of a wine-glass, or beer 
out of a tea-cup, or take up wine with a spoon ? The 
displeasure that would ensue from separating the liquid 
and the particular kind of vessel in which it had been 
customarily conveyed, is a plain proof that the habit, in 
each particular case, is formed. In the same manner 
with passive habits. A passive habit may be said to be 
formed when the passive impression can not be separated 
without pain, or difficulty, from that which preceded it ; 

ON HABIT. 379 

and when the principal cause of this pain or difficulty, 
is the mere circumstance of their having been connected. 
A man is habitually peevish, — that is, in his mind ; the 
little crosses and accidents of life are not overlooked, 
but strongly associated with resentment : let him attempt 
to separate them, — let him endeavor to take a good- 
natured and forgiving view of human life ; it costs him 
the greatest efforts, exposes him to the most mortifying 
failures, and is only to be acquired, at last, by very mag- 
nanimous resolution. The fish is not dressed to his 
liking, or a turkey comes to table when he had set his 
affections upon a goose. You immediately perceive a 
great deal of ill-temper; and whatever reasons there 
may be for hiding it, or whatever efforts may be made 
to hide it, it is still very visible. You say this man is 
habitually peevish, from the great difficulty he finds in 
separating the accidents of life from the acute malevo- 
lent feelings with which he has connected them ; and 
for which difficulty, — as it is felt in a much less degree 
by the average of men, — no other reason can be given, 
than the previous indulgence of such sort of feelings. 
Every one might feel a little peevish at the accidents of 
life ; and a slight difficulty might be universally experi- 
enced in attempting to check it ; but the degree of that 
difficulty appears to be so much greater in such instances 
as I have mentioned, that we determine without scruple 
that they are to be referred to something more than the 
mere original tendency of nature ; and that that some- 
thing more, is habit. 

The period of time in which a habit renews its action, 
or (if I may be allowed the expression) the orbit of a 
habit, is of very different dimensions. We may have a 
habit of shrugging up the shoulders every half-hour ; 
or, of eating three eggs every morning ; or, of dining at 
a club once a month ; or, of going down to see a relation 
once a year : but it is difficult to conceive any habit 
forming itself for a period greater than a year. I can 
easily conceive that a person who set off on every 1st of 
June, to pay a visit, might have the force of habit added 
to his other inducements, and go, partly because he 
loved the persons, partly because he had done it before ; 


but is it easy to believe that there is a habit of doing 
any thing every other year? or, how very ridiculous it 
would sound for two persons to say, " We agreed a long 
time ago to dine together every Bissextile, or leap-year, 
and it is now grown into a perfect habit !" This limita- 
tion of habits to the period of a year, — which I by no 
means lay any great stress upon, but which has some 
degree of truth in it, — depends somewhat upon the rev- 
olution of names and appearances. To do any thing 
the first day of a month, or on one particular day every 
year, is to strengthen a habit by the recurrence of names 
or seasons ; but if an action be performed every third or 
fourth year, the same name and the same appearances 
have occurred, without being connected with the same 
deed, and therefore the habit is impaired. 

The strength of habit depends partly upon the length 
of its duration, partly upon the violence of the cause 
which gave it birth. Whoever had seen any person 
burned to death by accident, might probably acquire an 
habitual dread of fire, and would certainly acquire it 
very rapidly ; because the deep impression of the origi- 
nal cause would multiply the number and increase the 
strength of the associations. The famous Isaac Barrow, 
the mathematician and divine, had an habitual dislike of 
dogs, and it proceeded from the following cause : — He 
was a very early riser ; and one morning, as he was 
walking in the garden of a friend's house, with whom he 
was staying, a fierce mastiff, that used to be chained all 
day, and let loose all night, for the security of the house, 
set upon him with the greatest fury. The doctor caught 
him by the throat, threw him, and lay upon him ; and, 
while he kept him down, considered what he should do 
in that exigence. The account the Doctor gave of it to 
his friends was, that he had once a mind to have killed 
the dog; but he altered his resolution upon recollecting 
that it would be unjust, since the dog only did his duty, 
and he himself was to blame for rambling out so early. 
At length he called out so loud, that he was heard by 
some in the house, who came out and speedily separated 
the mastiff and the mathematician. However, it is 
added, that the adventure gave the doctor a strong ha- 

ON HABIT. 381 

bitual aversion for dogs : and I dare say, if the truth 
were known, fixed in the dog's mind a still stronger 
aversion to doctors. It may be questioned whether any 
habits formed by the gradual accumulation of repeated 
facts, ever equal in power these deep marks left in the 
mind, by the rude and rapid inroads of passion. 

No habit formed (if I may use the expression) against 
the stream, can ever be so strong as one that goes with 
it. It is natural to mankind to resent injuries ; I don't 
say commendable, but natural: therefore, no habit of 
commanding resentment is so secure of remaining, as a 
habit of gratifying it. A habit of intemperance, is 
stronger than a habit of temperance ; and whatever may 
be the time for which habits are laid aside, they are 
always more liable to be resumed, than any other train 
of actions : the road may be stopped up, and overgrown 
with brambles ; and another road of much greater con- 
venience opened in a contrary direction ; but, in spite 
of all this, there is a prodigious tendency to move in the 
old track ; and we are very frequently never satisfied till 
we get back to it. 

Those persons are most liable to contract habits, either 
good or bad, whose lives are the most monotonous, and 
move on w r ith the most complete uniformity. He who 
has lived in various countries, will have no national 
habits ; in various parts of the same country, no pro- 
vincial habits. If he have neVer been compelled to a 
particular line of occupation, he will have no professional 
habits ; and if he have not voluntarily sunk into a same- 
ness of existence, if he have seen many different circum- 
stances, and done many different things, it is probable 
he will have no individual habits. Uniformity of occu- 
pation, is the cause both of bodily, moral and intel- 
lectual habits. It is very often easy enough to discover 
a military man by the general air and style of his be- 
havior : he has put on one look, and done one thing, so 
often, that the habit sticks to him. There is a clerical 
air as well as a military air, from the same causes. Ex- 
actly in the same way, is there a style of understanding, 
a love of contention, and a perpetual affectation of wit, 
in lawyers, who have contracted the bad habits of their 


profession ; and unrivaled vigor, quickness, and temper, 
in those who have availed themselves of the good. With 
equal diversities of occupation, those persons are, per- 
haps, the most likely to contract objectionable habits, 
who are prevented, by any cause, from reviewing and 
considering themselves ; as absent men, very profound 
men, very busy men, very proud men. As bad habit 
implies associated action not common to the world at 
large, it will probably be most visible in those who 
are not accustomed to compare themselves much with 

Men aware of the power of habit, escape its influence ; 
and therefore, it is among the most trite principles of 
education to discover the particular habits to which we 
are exposed by situation and profession ; and, when they 
are discovered, to resist them. Without any inten- 
tional efforts to resist professional habits, they are un- 
consciously resisted by the magnitude and variety of 
some men's minds ; and by the liberal pursuits which 
they contrive to connect with their professions. There 
is an effect of custom and habit to which we are all ex- 
tremely indebted, and that is, that it regulates every 
thing which nothing else regulates, where there is no 
propriety, and no duty, to be consulted. The refer- 
ence is always to habit, — in dress, in ceremony, in 
equipage, in all the circumstances of life where almost 
any conduct would be virtuous, a compliance with cus- 
tom is the only conduct that is wise, and a man of 
sense is rather pleased that the public legislate for him 
on points where choice would neither be easy nor use- 
ful. It is a strong mark of a good understanding, to 
allow custom an easy empire on these occasions. It 
is a much surer mark of talent, that men should rise 
above the influence of habit, and be better and greater 
than that to which the circumstances of their lives, or 
the character of their age, would appear to doom them. 
This is the reason why we admire men, who, born in 
poverty, and accustomed to objects of sense, have been 
able to conceive the dignity, the value, and the pleasure 
of intellectual gratification ; who, deviating from every 
model they had seen, and guided only by their inward 

ON HABIT. 383 

light, have steadily, and successfully, pursued the path 
of virtuous fame. By this subjugation of habitual 
thoughts, and escape from habitual objects, Bacon the 
friar, Czar Peter, Lord Verulam, and all great men, in 
law and in arts, have preceded the ages in which they 
lived, and become the beacons of future times. The 
mass of men, say whatever is said, do whatever is done, 
think whatever is thought, and can not easily conceive 
any thing greater and better than what is already cre- 
ated. But, in the grossest period of monastic ignorance, 
Bacon saw that the whole art of war might be changed 
by the invention of gunpowder ; the Czar pulled down 
a nation habitually victorious, roused and elevated a 
people habitually stupid and depressed : Lord Verulam 
looked upon his own times with the same cool estrange- 
ment from the influence of habit, as if he were con- 
templating a nation of the ancient world ; and was so 
little imposed upon by the imperfect philosophy which 
then prevailed, that he effected that entire revolution in 
physical reasoning, by which we are all benefited to the 
present hour. Such victories over present objects, — 
such power of reflecting, where attention is not stimu- 
lated by novelties, — are generally great triumphs of the 
human understanding, and decisive proofs of its vigor 
and excellence, in every individual instance where they 
are found. Whoever is learned in an ignorant age ; 
whoever is liberal in a bigoted age ; whoever is temper- 
ate and respectable in a licentious age ; whoever is ele- 
gant and enlarged in his views, where his profession 
chains him down to technical rules and narrow limits ; 
whoever has gained any good which habit opposes, or 
avoided any evil which habit might induce, — that man 
has vindicated the dignity and the power of his mind, by 
the fairest of all tests — by doing what the mass of man- 
kind can not do. 

There is no degree of disguise, or distortion, which 
human nature may not be made to assume from habit ; 
it grows in every direction in which it is trained, and ac- 
commodates itself to every circumstance which caprice 
or design places in its way. It is a plant with such va- 
rious aptitudes, and such opposite propensities, that it 


flourishes in a hot-house, or the open air ; is terrestrial, 
or aquatic ; parasitical, or independent ; looks well in 
exposed situations, thrives in protected ones ; can bear 
its own luxuriance, admits of amputation ; succeeds in 
perfect liberty, and can submit to be bent down into any 
of the forms of art : it is so flexible and ductile, so ac- 
commodating and vivacious, that of two methods of 
managing it — completely opposite — neither the one nor 
the other need to be considered as mistaken and bad. 
Not that habit can give any new principle ; but of those 
numerous principles w 7 hich do exist in our nature, it en- 
tirely determines the order and the force. The horror 
of bodily pain is a very strong principle ; but an Amer- 
ican chief invites it. At the very moment that his body 
is burning, and his sinews snapping asunder in the flames, 
he tells his murderers that they are quite ignorant of the 
science of tormenting ; that if they were bound to the 
stake instead of him, he would torment them with much 
more ingenious and exquisite cruelty than they have em- 
ployed against him : he never for an instant bewails his 
fate, or seems to look upon it as extraordinary ; it is the 
end that he has looked to habitually, and he has from his 
earliest infancy reared up a fabric of magnanimous cour- 
age to endure it. What feeling more powerful than the 
love of life ! A Spartan soldier, however, combed his 
hair, set up a song, and in a very few minutes was no 
more. An Indian widow burns herself to death, from 
etiquette. Who could imagine that men and women 
would shut themselves up in monasteries, and nunneries, 
living the absurd life which they do, in such sort of 
places ? — yet, the greater part of nuns and friars, who 
came over here, immediately shut out the daylight of 
common sense, and fell to forming nunneries and monas- 
teries again. 

The Indian settlement in Paraguay, formed by the 
Jesuits, is among the most curious victories of habit over 
the ordinary propensities of nature. It presents the cu- 
rious spectacle of several millions of human creatures 
leading the life of school-boys ; all desire of power, all 
love of property, swallowed up in a blind and habitual 
obedience to the Jesuits. One village was exactly a 

ON HABIT. 385 

model for the manners and customs of another. At a cer- 
tain hour, all the nation was put to work ; in the middle 
of the day, they dined by ring of bell ; and in the same 
way, were sent to bed by the curfew. It is an instance 
quite equal, in point of singularity, to any thing that is 
told of the power of habit among the Spartans. In like 
manner, there is not a single principle of our nature, 
which may not be cherished to the complete exclusion 
and subjugation of the rest. 

Such deeply-rooted habits have so much the air and ap- 
pearance of nature, that many men have doubted wheth- 
er it is not absurd to speak at all of the moral nature of 
man ; whether what we call the trammels of the Chinese 
and the Hindoo, are not as natural a state of existence 
as the comparative liberty of thinking and acting enjoy- 
ed in Europe. What is the fact with respect to these 
former nations ? One or two of the principles of our 
nature, has, by the help of education and religion, gain- 
ed an ascendency over all the rest. The Turk does not 
cultivate letters, and acquire knowledge. Why ? Not 
because he does not feel that same principle of novelty 
which has impelled us, but because other principles of 
his nature have been unduly strengthened, to the de- 
struction of that principle : his pride, as applied to the 
Mohammedan religion ; his contempt, as applied to Euro- 
peans : which makes him imagine that every thing worth 
knowing is to be found in the Koran ; and which makes 
him averse to receive instruction from those whom he 
looks upon to be so far beneath him. A Hindoo is of 
the same trade as his father : and so it has gone on for 
centuries. Why ? Not because the son of a Hindoo 
tradesman may not have talents and feelings to rouse 
him to something better ; but because the whole force 
of law and religion have been directed to cherish the 
principles of imitation and obedience, to the exclusion 
of all others. In the same manner, a sincere Quaker 
does not fight ; — not because he wants the element of re- 
sentment from nature, but because he has taken care to 
choke and overlay it. Therefore, as all men acquire very 
early the same active powers, and impelling principles, 
it is fair to say that that people is in the most natural 



state, where all those principles are developed ; and 
where one or two leading principles do not operate to 
the complete exclusion and subjugation of the rest. A 
Spartan, who cared nothing about his wife, or his chil- 
dren, and merely thought of the more extended relation 
of country, was not in a natural state of mind. The 
principle was natural, but not natural in that degree. A 
head is natural, but a disproportionate head is not. 
Wherever any one of the few great principles of our na- 
ture is missing, or wherever any one of them operates in 
a whole people, to the exclusion of the rest, it is an abuse 
of terms to speak of that as a state of nature. Outward 
nature is an upright body, endowed with life and strength, 
and capable of motion : there must be the hand for grasp- 
ing, and the leg for moving, and the foot for support. 
Inward nature is grief, joy, resentment, the love of pow- 
er, the love of esteem, the love of possession, and all the 
great feelings which I have been so long endeavoring to 
describe : if the greater part of these are exhausted and 
destroyed, the remnant may be nature, but it is nature 
abridged in principle, and mutilated in form. 

The mere body itself, independent of any influence of 
mind, is acted on by habit. Opium, and every kind of 
medicine, loses its effects by habit. The body of a 
Russian is not injured by rolling in the snow, after he 
comes out of a warm bath. So very much is the body 
the creature of habit, that it not only must have all the 
feelings it has been accustomed to, but have them pre- 
cisely in the same order of time. Wine is drunk at 
dinner, and tea at breakfast : they both agree perfectly 
well with the body, taken in this order of time ; but 
many delicate constitutions would be seriously indis- 
posed by attempting to change the order of these habits : 
for it is not enough to say, nature is accustomed to these 
things ; Nature is so punctilious, that she has settled, 
one thing must be done at one hour, and another at 
another ; and you can not at first violate it with impu- 
nity. There is no doubt but that, by degrees, a person 
would accustom himself to walk for an hour in the open 
air without either coat or waistcoat ; but if he had done 
that for many years at a particular hour, he could not 

ON HABIT. 387 

change that hour with impunity : he might do so be- 
tween nine and ten with safety, if that was his hour ; 
but it does not at all follow, that he could do the same 
thing between two and three. The body might have 
prepared itself, and would have prepared itself, for an 
exposure to unusual cold at the first hour, but by no 
means be ready for it at the second. The degree to 
which the power of habit may be carried in the body, 
has hardly been ascertained. There are some very re- 
markable instances of it, however, in birds. The eagle 
and the hawk have been brought to live upon bread and 
milk ; and the dove upon raw flesh : this, I believe, was 
done by Spallanzani. In the same manner, we may 
observe individuals of the vegetable tribe accommodate 
themselves to different situations ; to soil, climate, and 
the state of cultivation. These variations may be daily 
seen, by examining the plant as it grows on the moun- 
tains, in the valleys, in the garden, or the field ; or by 
bringing it from a rude, uncultivated state, when it 
sometimes lays aside its prickles, and changes the color 
and structure of its flowers. The apple-trees which are 
sent from England to New England, blossom at first too 
early for the climate, and bear no fruit ; and it is only 
after some years, that they conform themselves to their 
new situation. The design of this accommodating prin- 
ciple, is to fit both the plant and the animal for a more 
extensive and varied range of existence. Habit has the 
same effect in the history of man. It is by habit that he 
is enabled to support himself in every diversity of situa- 
tion, in which he is thrown by the ever-changing scene 
of human life : he is neither surfeited by abundance, nor 
exhausted by penury ; but contracts with a cottage, and 
expands with his palace ; preserving, in either extreme, 
that calm level of feeling to which habit at length re- 
duces every human passion. The grief which convulses, 
and threatens to destroy, — the wildest tumults of joy, — 
are brought down to the common standard ; the fiercest 
enemies embrace, the bitterest contentions cease ; every 
deficiency supplied, every irregularity brought to order, 
every elevation laid low, by the silent and unnoticed 
operation of this great principle. It is, in fact, habit, 


which alone neutralizes the passions, and deadens their 
stupendous powers. 

" Ni faciat, maria ac terras ccelumque profundum 
Quippe ferant rapidi secum verrantque per auras." 

Without it, we should sink under the first emotion of 
sorrow or of joy ; and it is only from the protecting in- 
fluence of habit that we are safely intrusted with such 
tremendous agents. 

A beautiful effect of habit is, that it endows with pre- 
ternatural strength every quality of the mind or heart 
which it calls into more than ordinary action. If pro- 
tection is wanted, men are ready, long habituated to the 
fear of death. If gentleness and benevolence are wanted 
to lessen the miseries of life, women are habitually gen- 
tle and benevolent. If patient industry, you have it in 
the laborer, and the mechanic. What but the power of 
habit, has given to us the advantage of those fine legal 
understandings, that have gradually formed the system 
of law in this country ? How are our naval victories 
gained, but by habitual character, skill, and courage ? 
Whence the effusions of eloquence every day to be wit- 
nessed in the senate, but by that intrepidity, self-posses- 
sion, and command of words and images, which habit 
only can confer ? Fresh, youthful, untaught nature can 
never do such things as these. It is nature in its man- 
hood, instructed by failure, fortified by precedent, con- 
firmed by success, riveted by habit, and carried to a pitch 
of glory, by intense adhesion to one object, which, with 
all the primary efforts of its rude vigor, it never could 
have reached ; diminishing the pleasure of vice, and 
strengthening the habit of virtue. 

These are the principal observations which I have to 
make on the nature of habit ; and with them I conclude 
my Lectures on the Passions. 

I am conscious how very imperfectly I have treated 
the subject : but it is of great difficulty ; one, in which 
very little assistance is to be gained from books, and to 
which, if ever I repeat these Lectures again — (as some 
years hence it may most probably be my lot to do) — 1 
may, perhaps, do more justice, than I have been able to 

ON HABIT. 389 

do at present. One principal object in my Lectures has 
been perpetually to refer to the very simple and beau- 
tiful origin of the passions, and to show, that however 
mixed and disguised, they all take their rise from pleas- 
ure and from pain. We are born with sensibility alone ; 
and to that cause is every feeling of our nature to be 
traced. The moment that Providence ordained man to 
feel pleasure and pain from the objects which surrounded 
him, and connected the impressions of his mind by asso- 
ciation, at that moment the passions were created, and 
the mind subjected to that variety of active principles, 
by which it is at present impelled. That I have not 
been doing a useless thing, and that it is important to 
examine those active principles, and to throw all the 
light which we can upon the theory of the passions, no 
man of reflection will, I presume, be inclined to deny. 
The passions are in morals, what motion is in physics : 
they create, preserve, and animate ; and without them, 
all would be silence and death. Avarice guides men 
across the deserts of the ocean ; pride covers the earth 
with trophies, and mausoleums, and pyramids ; love 
turns men from their savage rudeness ; ambition shakes 
the very foundations of kingdoms. By the love of glory, 
weak nations swell into magnitude and strength. What- 
ever there is of terrible, whatever there is of beautiful in 
human events, all that shakes the soul to and fro, and 
is remembered while thought and flesh cling together, — 
all these have their origin from the passions. As it is 
only in storms, and when their coming waters are driven 
up into the air, that we catch a sight of the depths of 
the sea, it is only in the season of perturbation that we 
have a glimpse of the real internal nature of man. It is 
then only, that the might of these eruptions shaking his 
frame, dissipate all the feeble coverings of opinion, and 
rend in pieces that cobweb veil, with which fashion hides 
the feelings of the heart. It is then only that Nature 
speaks her genuine feelings ; and, as at the last night of 
Troy, when Venus illumined the darkness, iEneas saw 
the gods themselves at work, — so may we, when the 
blaze of passion is flung upon man's nature, mark in him 


the signs of a celestial origin, and tremble at the invisible 
agents of God ! 

Look at great men in critical and perilous moments, 
when every cold and little spirit is extinguished : their 
passions always bring them out harmless ; and at the 
very moment when they seem to perish, they emerge 
into greater glory. Alexander, in the midst of his 
mutinous soldiers ; Frederick of Prussia, combating 
against the armies of three kingdoms ; Cortes, breaking 
in pieces the Mexican empire : — their passions led all 
these great men to fix their attention strongly upon the 
objects of their desires ; they saw them under aspects 
unknown to, and unseen by common men, and which 
enabled them to conceive and execute those hardy en- 
terprises, deemed rash and foolish, till their wisdom was 
established by their success. It is in fact the great 
passions alone which enable men to distinguish between 
what is difficult and what is impossible : a distinction 
always confounded by merely sensible men ; who do not 
even suspect the existence of those means, which men 
of genius employ to effect their object. It is only pas- 
sion which gives a man that high enthusiasm for his 
country, and makes him regard it as the only object 
worthy of human attention ; — an enthusiasm, which to 
common eyes appears madness and extravagance ; but 
which always creates fresh powers of mind, and com- 
monly insures their ultimate success. In fact, it is only 
the great passions, which, tearing us away from the 
seductions of indolence, endow us with that continuity 
of attention, to which alone superiority of mind is at- 
tached. It is to their passions, alone, under the provi- 
dence of God, that nations must trust, when perils gather 
thick about them, and their last moments seem to be at 
hand. The history of the world shows us that men are 
not to be counted by their numbers, but by the fire and 
vigor of their passions ; by their deep sense of injury ; 
by their memory of past glory ; by their' eagerness for 
fresh fame ; by their clear and steady resolution of 
ceasing to live, or of achieving a particular object, which, 
when it is once formed, strikes off a load of manacles 
and chains, and gives free space to all heavenly and 

ON HABIT. 391 

heroic feelings. All great and extraordinary actions 
come from the heart. There are seasons in human 
affairs, when qualities fit enough to conduct the com- 
mon business of life, are feeble and useless ; and when 
men must trust to emotion, for that safety which reason 
at such times can never give. These are the feelings 
which led the ten thousand over the Carduchian moun- 
tains ; these are the feelings by which a handful of 
Greeks broke in pieces the power of Persia : they have, 
by turns, humbled Austria, reduced Spain; and in the 
fens of the Dutch, and on the mountains of the Swiss, 
defended the happiness, and revenged the oppressions, of 
man ! God calls all the passions out in their keenness 
and vigor, for the present safety of mankind. Anger, 
and revenge, and the heroic mind, and a readiness to 
suffer; — all the secret strength, all the invisible array, 
of the feelings, — all that nature has reserved for the 
great scenes of the world. For the usual hopes, and the 
common aids of man, are all gone ! Kings have per- 
ished, armies are subdued, nations moldered away! 
Nothing remains, under God, but those passions which 
have often proved the best ministers of His vengeance, 
and the surest protectors of the world. 








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reality to the vision of his early life. — Baltimore American. 

Here is a work which unites the grandeur and extent of early specula- 
tions with the fullness and precision of modern science. Akin to the Ti- 
mceus of Plato in its artistic repose, in solemn earnestness, and calm mag- 
nificence of diction, its most astonishing speculations are based upon severe 
and rigorous investigation. We are equally surprised at the fullness and 
minuteness of his knowledge, and the masterly clearness with which his 
facts are arranged. Indeed, " Cosmos" is a work of art almost as much as 
of philosophy. — London Spectator. 

It will be an enduring monument to the memory of its great and distin- 
guished author. — Washington Union. 

The work is unique in its character, and can not, perhaps, be better de- 
scribed in a single word, than by saying that it puts all science under con- 
tribution to establish the harmony and perfection of the universal system. 
* * * The engraved portrait (we can testify from some knowledge of the 
original) is excellent. — Albany Argus. \ 

In a small compass we have the substance of many volumes, the results \ 
of centuries of investigation and progress, condensed, reduced, systematized, \ 
and prepared for all men by one amply competent to the service. — Palladium. 

Cosmos is certain to make a great noise in the learned world. — Freeman's i 
Journal. I 

* * * -jn^g vagt k now ledge, too, is embodied in language comprehensive j 
to all. The book deserves a place in every library in the land — Prov. Jour. \ 

What a wide field of knowledge is here laid open, by one of the master j 
spirits of the age! In this reservoir has been poured the treasures of his > 
intellect to enrich the minds not only of the present generation, but of un- | 
born millions. — Albany Atlas. j 






Among all the books in the field of classical literature, we speak from 
some experience, there is not one more useful, necessary, and valuable, than 
this lexicon. — Literary World. 

This new English-Latin Lexicon, like Liddell and Scott's Greek, and 
Ereund's Latin Dictionaries (Andrews's Latin-English Lexicon), will nec- 
essarily supersede all other works of the same class, and for the same rea- 
son — its superiority. — Methodist Quarterly Review. 

It is the only English-Latin dictionary that a student can consult with a 
reasonable hope of finding what he wants, or with any certainty of being 
able to trust what he finds. — Sartain's Magazine. 

The best work of the kind ever published, and destined to supersede the 
use of every other English-Latin dictionary. — Holden's Review. 

The most copious and the best arranged of its kind that we have ever 
seen. — National Intelligencer. 

It is a noble, an invaluable contribution to classical literature and to the 
I cause of classical education generally. — Commercial Advertiser. 
I Destined to take pre-eminent rank among the improved educational books 
I of the present age. — Washington Union. 

\ The work displays great research, and must be invaluable to the classi- 
i cal reader. — Rochester Democrat. 

> An invaluable work for the student of Latin, in method, fullness, and clear- 
( ness. — Chzirchman. 

\ It must supersede every similar work now in use in schools and colleges 
I throughout the United States, as it has already done in England. — Courier. 
Of immense use to those who are learning to write Latin. — Puritan Rec. 
! Superior to any thing of the kind. There is no such thesaurus of Latin 
! equivalents for English expressions ; all others are meager in the compari- 
| son. — Christian Intelligencer. 

This work supplies every former deficiency, and must find its way at once 
into the hands of every teacher and pupil. — American Spectator. 

This is a work such as never before appeared in the English language. — 
Freeman's Journal. 


.-«„ M ////AA//' 




8vo, muslin, $1 50 ; sheep, $1 75. 

It will be seen that the book is a history as well as a geography. The 
two are, in truth, happily combined. This renders the work something more 
than a dry enumeration of geographical details ; it may be read with the 
same pleasure as one, anxious for information, would read a history. The 
work is every where instinct with life: it is, in fact, geography historically | 
treated. It contains, besides, much curious and instructive information on j 
points of knowledge concerning which we are accustomed to search else- 
where, and often to search in vain.— S. W. Baptist Chronicle. 

Those who have attempted to teach Greek and Latin literature, know that | 
a good and complete system of classical geography has been among the ab- \ 
solute wants of American schools and colleges. The work before us is \ 
meant precisely to fill the gap ; and it takes up the subject in the exhaust- j 
ive way in which Dr. Anthon generally treats the subjects he undertakes \ 
to discuss. — Methodist Quarterly Review. 

It is well done, and we do not know of a work in the English language j 
that could be substituted for it in the department to which it belongs. — Pur- 
itan Recorder. 

Of the many volumes for which the public are indebted to Dr. Anthon, 
there is not one more admirably executed, in all respects, than this. Every 
page evinces the most thorough discrimination. — New York Tribune. 

The work is a monument of the learning and the unwearied diligence of 
the author. — Sartain's Magazine. 

Invaluable to the traveler and the student. — Democratic Review. 












In Southey's Life and Letters, the lovers of pleasant English prose may 
make sm-e of having as agreeable a specimen of unconscious autobiography 
in the form of letters as any in our language. — Edinburgh Review. 

Gossipy as womanhood, and garrulous as the "Doctor;" playful and piqu- 
ant, it forces us to see an interest about persons and things of so little con- 
sequence that we wonder how even the connection with Southey can invest 
them with sufficient materia not to try our patience. But so it is ; and the 
genealogies of families, the notices of common and indifferent people, the 
descriptions of casual impressions, the nursery, as it were, turned out to 
view, and the exploits of boy comrades, the characters of various teachers, 
and small anecdotes of household affairs and relations, are all set forth in so 
lively and fresh a manner that our amusement never flags, and our sense is 
ever and anon awakened to suggestions of philosophical import, to the 
great business of more mature life. — Literary Gazette. 

The whole volume abounds with interest ; the autobiographical portion 
will be perused with great curiosity, and the remaining portions of this first 
installment of the "Life and Correspondence" contain a mass of attractive 
and entertaining literary gossip, combined with delightful notices of South- 
ey's early career. — Morning Advertiser. 

We have rarely read a more delightful piece of writing than the first fifty- 
eight pages of this work. There is a gossiping charm in its minute details, 
a transparent purity in its style, and a gentle tinge of melancholy, natural 
to such a retrospect at the age of fifty, that throw an unusual charm about 
this account of his early years. — Watchman and Observer. 

To the lovers of refined and elegant literature, this announcement will im- 
part anticipations of gratification, such as few biographies are capable of 
affording. — Journal of Commerce. 

We doubt not that it will be one of the most popular issues of the sea- 
son. — Hartford Republican. 

A rare intellectual treat. — Springfield Republican. 

We do not think the language contains a more delightful piece of autobi- 
ography, rich as are its treasures in that style of composition, than these 
passages of the early life of Southey. It is full of the vividest traits of truth 
and character expressed with manly unaffectedness. — London Examiner. 


% Stmtuaru iltilttarg toork. 



It is a work of very great ability, and will unquestionably be widely read. 
The writer displays admirable clearness of intellect and copious knowledge 
of military principles. It is a book of great interest and value, on account 
of the vigorous and spirited narrative which it contains. — Cour. and Enq. 

With the entire absence of any thing like vain-glorying or national boast- 
ing, he evinces a warm and generous patriotism and professional enthusiasm, 
and a constant aim at impartiality. "We commend the volumes cordially as 
just the work which every citizen will desire to have for his own informa- 
tion, and desire to see circulated for the honor of his country. — Com. Adv. 

The author has written in a bold and impartial manner, is clear in his de- 
scriptions, and in his details pains-taking. Many important circumstances 
connected with the different campaigns described, heretofore kept too much 
in the shade, are now for the first time brought into full light, and the grand- 
er operations of the army are sketched with the pen of an enlightened sol- 
dier. — Literary World. 

He appears to have made a faithful use of the materials in his hands. 
The narrative bears the marks of diligent research, and is written with an 
evident spirit of impartiality.— New York Tribune. 

The narrative of the events of the war is admirably written, and dis- 
plays great research. The descriptions of the various military movements 
in the several battles are so clear that even those not acquainted with mil- 
itary matters can readily understand each movement. — Evening Post. 

The manner of the writer is such as gains the entire confidence of the 
reader. He is manifestly a man of ability, and the literary execution of the 
work is highly creditable to him. The book will have a wide circulation. 
Many will read its calm and well-written pages, who have turned in dis- 
gust from some of the blustering accounts that have heretofore been pub- 
lished. — Neto York Observer. 

The correct and lucid style of the author bears evident marks of caution, 

and the general tone of the volumes is pleasing. — Southern Lit. Messenger. 

\ The work is the most valuable publication on the subject. — Sartain's Mag. 

\ The most complete and comprehensive work that has yet been published 

| on the late war. — N. Y. Review. 

The narrative is given with great fidelity. — Democratic Review. 
> This work is destined to make a sensation. It is the first history of the 
\ late war worthy of the name. — Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post. 


Nod itDork bg Jfatras. 

B Y Gf. P. R. J A M E S, E S Q. 

12mo, paper, 75 cents ; muslin, $1 00. 

It was a happy thought to group together some of these darker pages of 
history. The contrast cleanses the heart. We learn best to enjoy the state 
of things under which we live. — Colburn's Neio Monthly. 

He has shown great judgment in the selection of his topics, and handled 
them with more than his usual facility and effect. Among the "Dark 
Scenes" which he brings to light, are tbe histories of " Perkin Warbeck," 
"The Albigenses," " Wallenstein," "The last Days of the Templars." 
They are portrayed with the rich coloring for which the author is distin- 
guished, and will add to his reputation. — Tribune. 

The reader will derive much valuable information from the thrilling nar- 
ratives which are contained in this work. — Boston Daily Journal. 

We question whether the cover of any book ever before enveloped such 
a mass of startling and gigantic criminal transactions ; delineated, too, most 
thrillingly, in the peculiar style of the author ; the lights like the brightest 
sunbeams — the shadows black as Erebus. — Daily Times and Republic. 

One of the most entertaining volumes which have issued from Mr. James's 
prolific pen — using the word entertaining in its best sense. The author has 
seized upon some of the most striking events of history, and, without de. 
parting from fidelity of narrative, has thrown around them so much vivid 
coloring and dramatic effect that the reader's attention never wearies, and 
he receives pleasure and instruction from the same page. — Com. Advertiser, 

This is a well- written book, contains a large amount of valuable historical 
information, judiciously condensed, and will be read with great advantage 
as well as absorbing interest. We predict for this publication an extensive 
circulation. — Methodist Protestant. 

This volume is at once interesting and instructive. — Baltimore American. 

The topics embraced are very interesting ones. — Neto York Observer. 

Many important facts are brought together in a clear and instructive man- 
ner. — Presbyterian. 

The author has set forth vice in its own colors, and has drawn some most 
impressive lessons from the facts he records. We can testify of its absorb- 
ing interest, and do not doubt that it will become popular. — Evangelist. 

These are the compositions in which the author excels, combining histor. 
ical information with critical acumen. The tragical descriptions are full of 
force ; the entire work is worthy of the author's great popularity. — Lit. Gaz 


^ Nem fcPork on Spain. 



12mo, paper, 75 cents ; muslin, $1 00. 

Its felicitous sketches, its piquancy of narrative, and accuracy of obser- 
vation, we may venture to predict will give it a high position among the 
best books of travel of the day, excellent as some of these have been of late 
years. — Baltimore American. 

We should be pleased if all travelers were as entertaining as Wallis, and 
all " Notes" as racy and new as these " Glimpses of Spain." — Lit. American. 

We venture to predict for this volume a very large share of public favor, 
which we think it most fully deserves. * * * An agreeable and clever work. 
We repeat that we rarely stumble on one of its kind that has afforded us 
so much pleasure. — Albion. 

These " Glimpses" do credit to the eye which saw and the pen which 
describes them. Mr. Wallis treats of Spain and Spaniards as they are, not 
as they are not. — Boston Post. 

The author is an intelligent and well-read man, and tells his story in a 
very animated manner. He is disposed to take a very favorable view of 
Spanish character and manners, the effect of which is to render his book the 
more interesting. — New York Observer. 

A sensible, well-written, and highly entertaining volume, embodying ma- 
tured and comprehensive views with interesting personal incident. — South- 
ern Christian Advocate. 

It furnishes a rich intellectual treat. — Methodist Protestant. 

It is written with clearness, and in a most agreeable style, which famil- 
iarizes, so to speak, the reader with the subject of which it treats, and car- 
ries him on his journey as if he were really making it himself, so skillfully 
and yet so artlessly is the narrative given. — Baltimore Patriot. 

The book abounds with interest and amusement. — Freeman's Journal. 

We like this book exceedingly. All the author says is full of sense, and 
heart, and purpose. Of all the books we have ever read on Spain, commend 
us to this one. — Christian Alliance. 

It is characterized by a close observation of all material facts and inci- 
dents, a liberal view of existing institutions, and a style easy, graceful, and 
readable in a high degree.— Methodist Quarterly Review. 


Bi) tljc 3Uttl)or of "banitn fair." 



jw^ftf) JHlustvatfons b£ tfje ^utijov. 


As true to the life and as bitingly satirical as "Vanity Fair." — Lit. Mes. 

Thackeray must take his stand at the head of the prose satirists, if not of 
the novelists, of the day. No one describes the scenes and manners of so- 
ciety with such curious felicity. — Washington Republic. 

In satire he has had no superior since the days of Fielding. — Hold. Rev. 

We recognize in " Pendennis" the able and vigorous intellect which 
evinced so intimate a knowledge of life and such inimitable powers of por- 
traiture in "Vanity Fair."— London Morning Herald. 

Here is a book to drive away melancholy. It is by that most laughter- 
moving writer of the age, Thackeray, and those who read it must laugh, be 
they ever so melancholy. We recognize every where the pen of the author 
of " Vanity Fair," and are by no means displeased with the acquaintance. — 
Western Continent. 

To all who have read "Vanity Fair" or "The Great Hoggarty Diamond," 
the very name of Thackeray is suggestive of the good things contained in 
any book he may choose to write. Thackeray's sympathies are all health- 
ful and invigorating ; he is the sworn enemy of all humbug and pretension, 
and the good-humored but effective satire with which he assails them has 
rendered him one of the most popular writers of the day. — JV. Bed. Mercury. 

Replete with truthful delineations of character and sparkling with the 
coruscations of wit and humor. — Commercial Advertiser. 

No recent fiction seems to us to bear such intrinsic evidence of being drawn 
from life. — Home Journal. 

He (Thackeray) is caustic in satire, and at the same time witty and hu- 
morous, original and instructive. Fielding led the way in English works 
of fiction painted from nature ; and Dickens and Thackeray are worthy suc- 
cessors of the great father of the English novel. — Baltimore American. 

Thackeray pictures society in all its phases in a graphic, sarcastic, and yet 
genial manner. — Transcript. 

We cheerfully commend it to every man who would refresh his rceollec- 
tions of his boyish freaks and fancies of love-making. — National Era. 





12mo, paper, 371 cents ; muslin, 50 cents. 

No modern writer excels him in the art of mingling instruction with amuse- 
ment. Whatever the subject may be, he is sure to render it interesting by 
his lively and practical mode of treating it. — John Bull. 

One of the most interesting of the literary productions of the late Captain 
Marryat. — Bost.on Transcript. 

Capt. Marryat's rare powers of story-telling appear here to as much ad- 
vantage as in his celebrated sea novels. — Washington Republic. 

A most instructive and at the same time entertaining and delightful story. 
It will charm all our youthful readers by the simplicity and naturalness of 
its incidents and the attractive style in which it is written, and it will well 
repay the perusal of readers of the maturest age. — Western Continent. 





Replete with incident and valuable information. — Yankee Nation. 

Written in the lively and picturesque style of the author — its perusal 
can not fail to both please and profit. — Southern Christian Advocate. 

There is very much valuable information contained in a small compass. 
Interspersed are glowing and graphic pictures of the ocean — its dangers, 
its storms, its calms — and the peculiar habits of those that roam its depths. 
It is a very readable and pleasant as well as profitable volume. — Alb. Atlas. 

Since the issue of Dana's justly celebrated " Two Years before the Mast," 
we have read nothing of sea life and adventure so fresh, lively, and instruct- 
ive as this beautiful little book, It is full of life, anecdote, facts, incident, 
and character, and succeeds in keeping the reader intensely occupied with 
the glories and wonders of the deep to the end. It is embellished with sev- 
eral very fine engravings, which are full of instruction. — N. Y. Evangelist- 

A most attractive work, both as a composition and for its pictorial inter- 
est. — Albany Evening Journal. \ 






A book which, like its predecessor, indicates exquisite feeling, and very 
great power of mind in the writer. — London Daily News. 

The book embraces grand character, grand scenes, grand thoughts; it 
proves, conclusively, that the writer is a wonderful creature, a phenomenon 
of mind. — Boston Post. 

It is strongly marked by the peculiar characteristics of " Jane Eyre," in- 
dicating exquisite feeling and remarkable power of mind in the writer. — 
Boston Rambler. 

Very ably written, and interesting. — Philadelphia Sat. Evening Post. 

The women in " Shirley" are marvelously real. — Albion. 

There are scenes which for strength and delicacy of emotion are not trans- 
cended in the range of'English fiction. — London Examiner. 

There is a racy novelty in its style, in its minute analysis of character, 
in its descriptions of natural scenery, and in its combinations of conflicting 
passions. — Eclectic Review. 

There is great ability in this work ; it is full of eloquence. — BeMley's Mis. 

It is marked by originality of style, and displays command of language, 
and ability at framing and developing a plot. — Literary American. 

* * * But we must stop here with a general and hearty approval of the 
book, which is as healthy in tone as it is pleasing in style. — N. Y. Mirror. 




Since the time when Scott was used to astonish the world no novel has 
had such success or attracted so much attention. — Daily Times. 

This novel has excited a deeper and more wide-spread interest than any 
other book that has been issued from the press for years. — Brattle. Eagle. 

From the first page to the last it is stamped with vitality. — W. Chronicle. 

One of the most powerful domestic romances which have been published 
for many years ; full of youthful vigor, of freshness and originality, of nervous 
diction and consecrated interest. It is a book with a great heart in it. — Atlas. 

The reading of such a book as this is a healthful exercise. — Tablet. 

It is a book to make the heart beat, and to fill the eyes with tears. — Lon- 
don Atlas. 

Original, vigorous, edifying, and absorbingly interesting. — Jerrold's Paper. 





Comprising his Correspondence and other Papers, Official and Private, <fc. 

With illustrative Portraits. 

Neva, revised, and cheap edition. 12 vols. 8vo, Muslin. $1 50 per volume. 

As historical records, Washington's letters are invaluable, delineating, as they do, more 
minutely and more truthfully than any other sources, the particulars of our revolution. They 
stand among the archives of our history, imperishable, being, in their truth and minuteness, 
from the hand of one who knew the things whereof he wrote. — Buffalo Courier. 

These volumes are replete with instruction. Every page serves to show how wise and good 
a mau our great Washington was. If every man in our country would read these writings 
carefully, they would infuse a portion of his patriotism into the present generation. — Albany 
Evening Journal. 

^vtBtotVB fgfetorg of the Conquest oi Jleru, 

With a Preliminary View of the Civilization of the Incas. 
With Portraits, Maps, <$-e. 2 vols. 8vo, Sheep extra, $4 50 ; Muslin, $4 00. 

We can most conscientiously recommend this work as indispensable to complete that long 
line of English histories which is gradually appropriating to itself the most important events 
in the chronicles of mankind. — Quarterly Review, October, 1847. 

The world's history contains no chapter more striking and attractive than that comprising 
the narrative of Spanish conquest in the Americas. Teeming with interest to the historian 
aud philosopher, to the lover of daring enterprise and marvelous adventure, it is full of fasci- 
nation. Mr. Prescott has added to his well-merited reputation by his narrative of the Conr 
quest of Peru.— Blackwood. 

JJrcscott's f^istorg ot the Conquest ot J&epco, 

With the Life of the Conqueror, Hernando Cortez, and a View of the Ancient 

Mexican Civilization. 

With Portrait and Maps. 3 vols. 8vo, Sheep extra, $6 75; Muslin, $6 00. 

It abounds with sketches of scenery worthy of Scott, with battle-pieces rivaling those oi 

Napier, with pictures of disaster and desolation scarcely less pathetic than those drawn by 

Thucydides. Mr. Prescott appears to us to possess almost every qualification for his task.— 

Edinburgh Review. 

One of the most remarkable historical compositions that has appeared for a long time.— 
Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve. 

$cescott>s i&istorg ttf jFertriuautr antr Xsafcella, 

The Catholic. 

With Portraits. 3 vols. 8vo, Sheep extra, $6 75 ; Muslin, $6 00. 
It is by much the first historical work which America has as yet produced, and one that 
leed hardly fear a comparison with any that has issued from the European press since this 
century began. — Quarterly Review 

Jlrescott's Eiosrajriiical antr Critical miscellanies. 

With a finely-engraved Portrait. 8vo, Muslin. $2 00. 
The essays embrace a variety of literary subjects, and treat of American, Spanish, French, 
Italian, and English authors. All who love a light and pleasant style of observation thrown 
over topics of universal interest will find enough here to afford them acceptable inibrmatioa 
and rational pastime. — Literary Gazette. 

Ap 7195 231 c